PROVO, UTAH, SEPT. 4 -- From his last game in 1988 through the first of 1990, a span of 15 games, Ty Detmer has gone from Who's He? to Who's Who, from the "best kept secret in America" to the "best quarterback in America" and a leading candidate for the Heisman Trophy.

At least those are the views of some college football experts, not all of whom reside in Provo, home of Brigham Young University, where Detmer plies his craft.

Detmer is attracting national attention because Saturday BYU goes against Miami (Fla.) and Craig Erickson, the No. 1 Heisman candidate according to a different set of experts, who led Miami to the 1989 national title and its present ranking atop all the polls.

Detmer carried 14th-ranked BYU to a 30-10 victory at Texas-El Paso last week in a sloppy season opener.

He gave himself a C-minus grade even though the numbers were more than adequate: 33 completions in 46 attempts for 387 passing yards, one touchdown pass of 28 yards, two running scores on short-yardage bootlegs and 553 total yards.

Two touchdown passes were canceled by penalties, each followed by an interception, his only ones of the day. "Just first-game errors; I made some bad decisions," he said. "The penalties {19 for 169 yards} hurt us."

One of those flags came from Detmer's yelling at the officials.

BYU Coach LaVell Edwards said: "Typical opening game. It was weird, but we just wanted to get out with a win." And that was what he got.

Detmer apparently is some kind of a lightning rod. He attracts thunderbolts and throws them too. In his final game last season, the Holiday Bowl against Penn State, he passed for 576 yards. Penn State won, 50-39, which says something about BYU's defense. Or, as Oregon quarterback Bill Musgrave described events in Provo last year, "Conditions were perfect; no wind and no cornerbacks."

Detmer recruited BYU, not vice versa; he once liberated a hog's head after a barbeque and left it on a teammate's pillow in a scene akin to the "Godfather" movies; he is the proud possessor of a pure Texas Longhorn bull, descendant of the cattle depicted in a John Wayne circa 1880 western. All this seems normal enough to Detmer.

In order, then, starting with recruiting: "I knew about BYU's passing game and their great quarterbacks {starting in the late 1970s with Gifford Nielson and ranging through Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Robbie Bosco in 1986}, so Dad {a football coach} and I came on a trip to BYU the summer before my senior year of high school in San Antonio. We saw the facilities {a 65,000-seat stadium nestled gorgeously in the Rockies} and I was ready. We didn't visit any other school -- just went back home."

Edwards was somewhat surprised: "Here's this skinny 6-foot, 150-pounder who looked about 15. I wondered where the real Ty Detmer was."

It was too early to sign a letter of intent, but Detmer fulfilled his promise a year later. Meantime, many schools sought him, Miami and UCLA among them, after he was all-Texas and won honors in three other sports. How hard did Miami recruit him? "They didn't have much chance, I committed so early," he said.

Pranks: "I like to loosen things up sometimes. You know, like in the middle of winter," he drawled in Texasese, now a skinny 6-foot, 175-pounder built like a marathon runner.

His conversation is sprinkled with "Yes sir," and "No sir" and a modest and earnest approach to his success. A Methodist, he has no trouble with the Mormon church and BYU rules and regulations, often speaking at their functions and surprising people who discover he is not a Mormon.

About the Longhorns: "I guess my dad thought a bull would be a good pet or something. Anyway, I have the bull, my brother Koy has three cows and we pasture them in San Antonio, along with six horses . . . and mother complains, 'Livestock but no land.' "

The idea, obviously, is to breed the cattle and sell the calves and Detmer couldn't resist a sales pitch: "Did you know that Longhorn beef is low in fat and cholesterol?"

Last season, as a sophomore, Detmer was incredible: 11 NCAA records. Some of them: 12 (now 13) consecutive 300-plus-yard games (bowl games don't count); most yards per attempt (11.07) and the second-best passing efficiency in history. Detmer scored 175.6 points, 23 points ahead of last year's Heisman winner, Andre Ware of Houston. The best ever? Jim McMahon's 176.9.

Detmer is durable, has never missed a down because of injury. His coach says he is a special young man, has great instincts and smarts, is a fine NFL prospect for two years from now.

By that time his father will have brother Koy finishing a high school career expected to be similar to Detmer's. But for now, Detmer backers would like to see the Heisman race end in a Ty.