STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- When Penn State and Brigham Young finished playing two years ago in the Holiday Bowl, there were enough big plays and excitement left over for another game. Eighty-nine points were scored -- 50 by the Nittany Lions -- and a college football legend named Ty Detmer had been born.
Too bad that some of those plays and some of that excitement couldn't have been put toward last night's rematch at sold-out Beaver Stadium. And too bad for Detmer that he didn't leave for the NFL before this season. A record crowd of 96,304 and a
national television audience watched as 12th-ranked Penn State sacked the reigning Heisman Trophy winner six times and routinely dismantled the Cougars, 33-7.
The Nittany Lions took out their frustration from last week's upset loss at Southern Cal on hapless BYU (0-3). Though it took awhile get Penn State's offense restarted after a quick 10-0 lead all but evaporated, the defense and two BYU fumbles erased any chance of another shocking defeat.
"We weren't relentless in the first half, but when we came out in the second half, we were a very good football teams, especially defensively," said Penn State coach Joe Paterno.
Led by senior linebacker and captain Mark D'Onofrio, who was playing despite separating his shoulder in practice Thursday, the Nittany Lions put constant pressure on Detmer. Except for a second-quarter touchdown pass to Bryce Doman, which helped pull the Cougars to within 10-7, it was another long and difficult night in what has become a nightmarish season for Detmer.
The senior quarterback, who threw for 576 yards and two touchdowns against Penn State two years ago, finished 8-for-26 for 158 yards, with an interception. It was Detmer's worst performance since his freshman year, and marked the fewest points scored by the Cougars in six years. It also matched BYU's worst start since 1974.
"We've got a lot to prove," said Detmer, who has lost five straight games since winning the Heisman and has been sacked 13 times this season. "I'm looking forward to playing at home. It's kind of now or never for us."
Penn State had that kind of attitude going into last night. Embarrassed by its effort in a 21-10 loss to Southern Cal last Saturday in Los Angeles, and out of the top 10 for the first time this season, the Nittany Lions came home hoping to show that they were worthy of all that talk about a potential national championship.
The only talk around here yesterday concerned D'Onofrio and senior quarterback Tony Sacca. Rumors floated around Happy Valley that neither would start, and might not play. D'Onofrio had his arm in a sling until 3 p.m. and Sacca, who had dislocated the ring finger on his throwing (right) hand against Southern Cal, was watched very closely in pre-game warm-ups.
"When I got hurt, I asked the doctors Thursday what they thought my chances were of playing, and they thought I was crazy," said D'Onofrio. "I couldn't sit and watch this game."
Said Paterno, "He is an inspirational-type player for us."
But the biggest difference last night was that Penn State (3-1) didn't shoot itself in the foot, as happened time and time again in Los Angeles. After fumbling 16 times in their first three games, Penn State's tailbacks held onto the ball against the Cougars.
Senior Gerry Collins gained 99 yards on 27 carries and scored one touchdown. Sophomore Richie Anderson of Sandy Spring, Md., had 80 yards on 13 attempts and scored twice, including a 24-yarder. Sacca, playing with his fingers taped, was an efficient of 24 for 187 yards. He had one touchdown pass, one interception and fumbled once after being sacked.
"It was important for to regain our confidence," said Collins. "The offensive line did a great job for us, and we did our job by holding onto the ball."
BYU's offensive line had several breakdowns, sending Detmer running for his life. And two fumbles by its kick returners took the Cougars out of the game. Jamal Willis fumbled the opening kickoff of the second half, and Collins ran five straight times before going over from the 5. A fumbled punt return indirectly led to Anderson's first touchdown, and the rout was on.
Said BYU coach LaVell Edwards: "You can't give up the ball to a team like Penn State and expect not to pay for it. We were forced to throw on every down, and they really pinned our ears back. They put more pressure on Detmer than anybody has all year, including Florida State."