Ty Detmer, the latest heir to Brigham Young University's incredible passing riches, last night became the first BYU quarterback to win the Heisman Trophy by easily defeating Notre Dame's all-purpose back, Raghib "Rocket" Ismail.
Sitting in Hawaii with a lei around his neck and his teammates encircling him, Detmer pumped his fist into the air when his name was read in New York by Downtown Athletic Club President Peter Lambos. Detmer received 316 of the 917 possible first-place votes for 1,482 points to 1,177 (237 first-place votes) for Ismail. Colorado running back Eric Bieniemy finished third with 798 points and 114 first-place votes.
Virginia quarterback Shawn Moore, the first Atlantic Coast Conference player to be invited to the ceremony in New York, finished fourth with 465 points and 46 first-place votes, followed by Houston quarterback David Klingler with 125 points and seven first-place votes. Cavaliers wide receiver Herman Moore finished sixth (68 points, six first-place votes).
Shawn Moore, who was leading the Cavaliers through a storybook season before the team lost three games in November and he dislocated the thumb on his throwing hand, tied Maryland's Bernie Faloney in 1953 for the best Heisman finish by an ACC player. Faloney also came in fourth. The Moores were the first teammates to finish in the top 10 in 26 years.
"I'm pleased to finish fourth and I'm pleased to see one of my teammates finished sixth," Shawn Moore said. "It's a compliment for our school to have guys in the top 10."
Moore is the top vote-getter in Virginia football's 102-year history; "Bullet" Bill Dudley came in fifth in 1941.
Detmer followed in the footsteps of well-known predecessors Marc Wilson, Jim McMahon, Steve Young and Robbie Bosco, and said although none of them won the Heisman, they made it possible for him to win college football's most prestigious award.
"They set the way for us," Detmer told CBS-TV after becoming the third consecutive junior to win the award. "They've had great seasons in the past and they set the tone for us. They got the recognition that got us going. Now it's coming true for BYU."
Detmer said he thought it was a two-man race between him and Ismail, but immediately added that the strangeness of the 1990 college football season made him wary of any predictions.
"This year has been too weird to take anything for granted," he said before the announcement.
Detmer said he thought the perceived weakness of the Western Athletic Conference and "playing in Utah" might present problems for him, but he also thought the novelty of his situation and BYU's tremendous passing tradition might turn voters in his favor. "Maybe it's time we got one," he said.
Statistically, Detmer won big over Ismail. Before playing Hawaii last night, he had completed 339 of his 517 passes for a record 4,869 yards and 38 touchdowns. He also has 24 interceptions. He holds or shares 25 other NCAA records, including an ongoing streak of 23 straight 300-yard passing games.
Ismail, also a junior, is not among the leaders in any national offensive categories. He is ninth in all-purpose yards with 157 yards per game. He is 23rd on kickoff returns and has six touchdowns. But he is special because of exceptional speed and ability to draw so much attention that Notre Dame uses him as a decoy while other players run free. He has touched the football an average of 11 times per game. The average length of his touchdowns is 61.8 yards. A thigh bruise kept him out of the second half of Notre Dame's games with Stanford and Penn State, and the Irish lost both.
Detmer, a 6-foot, 175 pound native of San Antonio, is the 10th underclassman to win the Heisman, but he has said he will return to school.