Heisman, No. 1 ranking decorates BYU-FSU

August 29, 1991|By Gary Long | Gary Long,Knight-Ridder

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- An easy mistake for anyone sizing up the second Disneyland Pigskin Classic tonight (9, Ch. 54) would be presuming that Brigham Young University is coming in on only Ty Detmer's wing and a prayer.

But the theme for tonight's potentially explosive opener -- call it Burden of Proof -- applies not so much to Detmer, despite an inglorious close to his Heisman Trophy-winning 1990 season.

Instead, the onus is on Florida State to prove that it deserves a preseason No. 1 tag assigned almost by acclamation.

If the 1991 Seminoles are to climb the final slippery rungs from No. 2, No. 3, No. 3 and No. 4 post-bowl rankings the last four years and give coach Bobby Bowden his first national championship, they must start impressively.

The psychology at work is FSU's vow not to stumble like the 1988 outfit that traveled to the Orange Bowl as a preseason No. 1 and became silly putty for a frenzied University of Miami team in a 31-0 rout. Openers always begin with questions, but more so at FSU, which also lost the first two games of a 1989 season that began with renewed title aspirations.

Bowden is wary but ready. "We're about as prepared as we can be," he said of fall drills that had only one down side, a fractured foot to senior offensive guard Mike Morris.

LaVell Edwards, Bowden's BYU counterpart and friend, said as much in a different way. "After practicing for three weeks, you have to play a game whether you're ready or not," he said. Edwards enters this first meeting No. 5 to Bowden's No. 2 in career victories by active coaches but No. 3 to Bowden's No. 5 in rankings by winning percentage.

This one has bowl trappings. At a Pigskin Classic media event yesterday at Disneyland, that was Minnie Mouse escorting Bowden and quarterback Casey Weldon down from Cinderella's castle and Daisy Duck following along hand-in-hand with Edwards and Detmer.

But there's nothing frivolous about the intensity, Bowden assured. "I've been to bowls we didn't have to win," he said. "We're approaching this as a season opener, like a game we've got to have."

Naturally, Bowden's concern is Detmer, who begins his senior season needing only 426 yards to become the NCAA record-holder in career passing yardage. That's barely more than a game's worth for the slender Texan who passed for 5,188 yards and 41 TDs to outpoll Notre Dame's Raghib "Rocket" Ismail for the 1990 Heisman.

"He's so dangerous," Bowden said. "He's got a little Roger Staubach in him. He has this ability to visualize everything downfield and go to the open guy. Casey's got a little of that, too."

Weldon claimed FSU's starting job from Brad Johnson midway through the 1991 season and trailed only Virginia's Shawn Moore and Detmer in passing efficiency ratings. But Bowden is determined to avoid a Casey-vs.-Ty shootout.

Weldon is well aware of the chance to grab some of Detmer's glory. But he put into perspective the introduction of himself as a Heisman candidate. "The only way I can win it," he said, "is if we win all our games."

He is more interested in BYU's defense than in Detmer. But he is impressed, nonetheless. He recalls BYU's 28-21 upset of Miami a year ago. Detmer passed for 406 yards and three touchdowns, often after miraculous escapes from trouble.

"I don't know how he got out of some of those traps," Weldon said.

Edwards faces a tougher task than Bowden. He lost eight starters off his offense and five off his defense. FSU has a decided experience advantage, returning 17 of 22 starters.

However, BYU is rarely at a disadvantage in maturity because of the two-year Mormon missions many of the players fulfill in the middle of their playing careers. Among seven senior starters on defense, for instance, are outside linebackers Jared Leavitt, 25, and Scott Giles, 24.

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