On September 8, 1990, the defending National Champions (they also had won in 1987) and #1 team in the country Miami Hurricanes made a visit to Provo, Utah. The BYU Cougars, #16 in the country, were underdogs. Miami were a 13 1/2-point favorite. However, college football fans around the country were looking forward to the game as both teams had a similar style of exciting offense led by their star QBs.
The Deseret News' Lee Benson wrote before the clash of the teams, "Today's BYU vs. Miami football matchup in Cougar Stadium features the two best friends the forward pass ever had. This is Air West vs. Air East. Pass U. vs. Pass U. Fellow Worshippers at the Dropback Shrine. Devotees of 15-yards-and-a-cloud-of-points."
BYU's Ty Detmer and Miami's Craig Erickson were spotlighted as Heisman favorites in the build up to the 1990 season and in a lot of ways this matchup and who performed better in it was billed as a "loser leaves (Heisman)town" match. As it would turn out, only one team was truly effective through the air.
Miami struck first in the 1st quarter on a 7 yard TD run from Steven McGuire. 7-0 Miami.
In the 2nd quarter, Ty Detmer showed a glimpse of what BYU was in for the final three quarters when he eluded two sacks before drawing away the Miami cornerback with his eyes on Chris Smith only to find the now undefended Matt Bellini in the endzone.
The scoring continued to be back and forth in the 2nd Quarter capped off by Detmer finding Andy Boyce just before the end of the 1st half giving the Cougars a 17-14 lead at halftime.
Coming out of the locker rooms the Hurricanes were able to put the ball into the endzone on the ground -- this time with Leonard Conley. Miami had regained the lead, 21-17.
The Cougars were able to respond with another Earl Kauffman kick from 29 yards out. BYU still trailed 21-20 midway through the 3rd quarter.
On the next Miami offensive possession, a turning point arose for the BYU defense when Miami when for the first down on 4th and 1.
That's when Rich Kaufusi shed and flew pass his blocker and blew up the play in the backfield, where he was quickly joined by his teammates to finish the play. This was just the first of several big plays for the BYU defense that locked down the high powered Miami offense the rest of the way.
Kaufusi's big play on 4th and 1 gave the Cougars a short field. Ty Detmer was driving the Cougars down the field and faced a 3rd and long. Detmer found Bellini on a swing pass. Bellini made a couple moves but was tackled short of the 1st down marker. Now it was time for LaVell Edwards to make a 4th and 1 decision.
He could elect to go with another Earl Kauffman field goal (a 42-yard kick) or go for it. LaVell left his kicker on the sideline.
Detmer had saved the drive with a masterful pump fake (look at how hard Miami LB Darrin Smith (45) bites! He turns completely away from the ball carrier!) and quick step to evade Miami LB Michael Barrow in the open field. 1st down BYU.
The Cougars had made their way to the 8 yard line when Ty Detmer made the signature play of his career.
Ty Detmer saved his life when he stepped back just before he would have been crunched by the closing in fast from behind Jessie Armstead (5-time NFL Pro Bowl selection) and Russell Maryland (1990 Outland Trophy Winner, 1991 1st overall draft pick and 3-time Super Bowl Champion). After his great escape, Detmer somehow had the wherewithal to continue to keep his eyes downfield where he found Mike Salido cutting across the endzone.
Seriously, though, how lucky was Detmer here!
Following the score, the Cougars led 26-21. BYU wisely went for a nail-biting two-point conversion.
Detmer again moves the defense away from his target with a pump fake before connecting with Andy Boyce for two points. BYU 28-21.
The entire 4th quarter of this epic clash was about BYU's defense. In particular, an unexpected hero arose in true freshman Ervin Lee. Miami had decided to throw at Lee rather than try their luck against star CB Brian Mitchell. The true freshman responded in a spectacular way when he intercepted Craig Ericksen's pass in the endzone.
Lee wasn't finished. On the final drive of the game, Miami made a desperation pass on a 4th down and 4 looking for their terrific senior receiver Randal Hill.
Again, it was Ervin Lee to the rescue! Lee knocked the ball out of Hill's hands forcing the turnover on downs! For his efforts, Lee was named by the BYU coaches as the player of the game.
Here's current BYU offensive line coach Garret Tujague (74) celebrating Lee's pass defense.
For Ty Detmer's efforts (38 of 54, 406 yards and 3 TDs), he was awarded the Heisman Trophy, in large part how his performance he put in 25 years ago today.
Miami would finish the 1990 season with two losses and a #3 AP ranking.
Needless to say, the energy in the stadium as the final seconds clicked down was electric! Look in the background below at current BYU Offensive Line Coach Garrett Tujague (74) and teammate Mike Jenkins (79) celebrate with choreographed dance as Detmer gets ready to take the final knee. An Andy Boyce fist pump and yell to go along with it!
This game, of course, is forever immortalized as the greatest game in the LaVell Edwards/Cougars Stadium history and possibly the top game in program history. It even has a song that is largely dedicated to this event, Johnny Biscut's "Tysman Rap." Give it a listen in honor of the anniversary. While listening to it, share your memories in the comments below.
You can watch this game online at BYUtv.