Ralph R. Zobell | Posted: 17 Dec 2012 | Updated: 8 Nov 2020

From the archives: the 52-52 tie of 1991 at San Diego State

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BYU 52, San Diego State 52

November 16, 1991--night game (clear, 57 degrees) at Jack Murphy Stadium (ESPN, 56,737attendance). Elapsed time: 3:54

Ty Detmer was never better even with a split cheek and facing a 45-17 deficit in the third quarter of a game in which BYU was playing without two of its top three cornerbacks. Detmer and freshman running back Jamal Willis propelled the Cougars to a 52-52 tie, which assured BYU of at least a tie for the Western Athletic Conference title and of a bowl berth.

Ironically, Detmer broke three NCAA records which had been held by the Aztecs' Todd Santos--for career plays, completions and attempts. David Lowery took advantage of BYU's secondary problems in completing 26 of 39 passes for 568 yards and five touchdowns.

Freshman Darnay Scott caught eight passes for 243 yards on a night when then the Aztecs' largest crowd ever (56,737) saw the home team take a 35-17 halftime lead. But Detmer led the Cougars to 35 points in the final 16 and a half minutes to provide the highest scoring tie in NCAA history. BYU is now 7-3-1 (6-0-1 in the WAC).

BYU Coach LaVell Edwards: "Aside from being stunned, I don't know what else to say. It was one of the greatest comebacks I've seen. I didn't have any idea that the tie would put us in the Holiday Bowl. Keith Lever made some pressure kicks out there in the second half. I'm speechless.

"I'm very impressed with San Diego State and Lowry has been their catalyst. I was pleased with the way we hung in there. Our young running back Jamal Willis was not bad out there. I knew we had a chance if we made the plays. Ty Detmer is an unbelievable quarterback.

Ty Detmer quotes: "We kept scoring and scoring and our defense held a couple of times and all of a sudden we were back in it. They hadn't stopped us all the fourth quarter. Jamal had a great catch over the middle. In this offense you are never out of it. I had 20 stitches above my eyebrow."

Keith Lever quotes: "I just wanted to make Earl (Kauffman) proud of me. I kept telling myself to concentrate just like it was practice. I told myself over and over, 'this is just like team (practice), this is just like team.' I've done it so many times in practice. I kept picturing the ball going through the uprights. When it went through, Joe Evans (holder) got up to hug me, but I was so excited I ran off the field before he could catch me."

SDSU Coach Al Luginbill: "We had numerous ways to win the football game and we didn't do it. The reaction of our players is deep hurt.

"Special teams let us down when we needed them the most. We couldn't snap or hold the ball any better.

"I couldn't have asked for more from the people of San Diego. The fans came to win."

Score by quarters

BYU       6   11    14  21--52
SDSU   14   21   10    7--52

Reprinted below from the San Diego Union:

Tie, Ty give BYU Holiday
by Tom Maloney, Staff Writer, San Diego Union

Everyone who witnessed the game will be talking about it for an eon.

The Aztecs will mourn it, perhaps for just as long

Needing a win to gain the Western Athletic Conference championship and the automatic berth in the Holiday Bowl last night, San Diego state blew a 45-17 lead, and Ty Detmer-led Brigham Young University came back to tie with a last-minute touchdown, 52-52, sealing the bowl bid.

"It happened," said Aztecs coach Al Luginbill.  "We have to live with it. But in this business, peaks and valleys, this is about as low as you can go. There are three ways to deal with this—you can blame somebody else, you can feel sorry for yourself, or you can stand up and be a man."

Even if BYU (6-0-1 WAC) loses Saturday to Utah, it gains the bid over the Aztecs (6-1-1) because it beat Air Force and the Aztecs lost, 21-20. The Aztecs will be going to the Freedom Bowl to play Tulsa, on the same day (Dec. 30).

Before a record home crowd of 56,737 at San Diego Jack Murphy Stadium, Ty Detmer and David Lowery combined for more fireworks than explode over Disneyland on the Fourth of July, making opposing defenses look like straight men in a stage performance.

Detmer completed 31 of 54 passes for 599 yards, eclipsing the 514 he totaled against SDSU last year. Lowery, still undefeated in seven games as a starter, set a school record with 568 yards in the air, yet he was left in tears on the sideline, while Detmer leaped into the air in celebration.

Heroes were aplenty on offense. Marshall Faulk rushed for 118 yards, caught six passes for 116 yards and scored four TDs while breaking an NCAA freshman record for TDs on the season (22), before reinjuring his ribs (Jamal Willis countered for BYU, catching eight passes for 116 yards, running 11 times for 71 more, and scoring three TDs.

The final numbers for total offense were astronomical—BYU 767, SDSU 695.

But the numbers mattered zilch in the SDSU locker room.

"We didn't win and that's all there is to it," said Lowery. "We needed this victory so badly. We needed to win."

BYU scored its last touchdown with about 35 seconds left when running back Jamal Willis jogged over from the 5-yard line untouched and backup kicker Keith Lever made the PAT.

BYU got the ball with 2:46 left when Andy Trakas skulled a 41-yard field goal attempt that would have put the game away. On second down, out of the shotgun, Detmer hit Eric Drage with a pass-run play for 42 yards. Peter Tuipulotu gained 16 on a draw. A 10-yard pass on a 3rd-and-1 to Tuipulotu put the ball on the Aztec 5, and with fewer than 40 seconds remaining, Willis scored by running on the right side.

"Its been the same thing all in the second half," said Strong safety Chris Johnson. "Defensively we didn't come out and play ball. That's all there is to it. The offense did everything to win. We just started breaking down.

Until the season was staked on the Aztecs had gone to the long pass only gingerly, as if afraid of it or, as it turns out, afraid to throw it."

In his seventh game as a starter, Lowery uncorked his full barrage of weaponry before an electrified crowd.

Two plays into the second quarter, Detmer threw a 20-yard TD pass over the middle to Nati Valdez, who had his collarbone broken when Eric Sutton landed on top of him. The play tied the score at 14, it detonated the Aztecs offense.

From that point until Jamal Willis went 49 yards on a pass-and-run play late in the third quarter, the Aztecs outscored BYU 31-3 for a 45-17 lead.

Then it began to fall apart for the Aztecs.

Jamal Willis went 49 yards on a pass-and-run play, breaking tackle at the 15. The Aztecs' leading receiver, Patrick Rowe, left the game with a sprained ankle. A 44-yard pass-and-run play to Merton Harris was called back for holding, then Lowery threw into double coverage. with Josh Arnold intercepting at the 49 to start a BYU drive.

Four plays later, Detmer hit Byron Rex on a 10-yard pass to close to 45-31.

After an Aztec punt in the fourth quarter, BYU drove seven plays, Detmer hitting Tuipulotu for a 20-yard pass to make it 45-38.

Keith Williams caught his second pass of the year and the game on the next possession for 47 yards and a TD from Lowery for the Aztecs last points, but Detmer came back, hitting Mark Atuaia for a four-yard TD pass to cap an eight play, 72-yard drive.

The defense, which had allowed 45 points in the fourth quarters of two previous games, could not hold after Trakas missed the field goal.

Lowery went 6-for-6 in the second quarter, for a total 226 yards. In the first half, SDSU compiled 406 yards—an average of 12.7 per play. Luginbill, comparing the speed of SDSU's receivers and running backs to Florida State's, had hinted the Aztecs would give the BYU defense trouble. Nobody expected this much trouble, though.

Going to the bomb persistently, Lowery threw TD passes to Scott for 79 and 75 yards, Faulk for 80 and Patrick Rowe for 52 yards.

On the Aztecs' first play following the pass to Valdez, the Aztecs got Faulk isolated on linebacker Scott Giles. He caught a bomb on the right side, leaving Giles on the floor for an 80-yard TD

On the third play of the next series, Lowery hit Row for a 52-yard TD. Two series later, on the second play, Lowery hooked up with Scott for a 79-yard TD.

The Aztecs' defense came up with two momentum-saving plays. After Detmer drove BYU to the Aztec 4, an incomplete pass was followed by two sacks of Detmer by Ramondo Stallings, an oft-injured defensive end. Detmer showed his frustration following the second sack, thrashing at Stallings with a free hand and leg. At halftime, he verbally assaulted the referee on the way to the dressing room.

The defenses played like a straight man in a comedy act, George Burns to Gracie, "You just stand there and so something foolish once in awhile," the offenses seemed to be saying. "I'll do the performing."

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