Grant Hedrick gets chance to take over Bronco offense
BOISE, Idaho (AP) - Grant Hedrick has spent years playing the role of backup and situational quarterback, taking the occasional snap from the wildcat formation just to keep opposing defenses guessing.
Life is about to change for the redshirt junior, and with it the expectations that come with holding the keys to Boise State's high-scoring offense.
Hedrick got his first taste of the starring role last Saturday, taking over for Joe Southwick, who broke his right ankle on the first offensive play of the game. After a slow start, Hedrick got the offense rolling in the second half, completing 18 of 21 passes for 150 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 115 yards and two scores in leading the Broncos (5-2, 3-1 Mountain West Conference) to a 34-17 comeback victory over Nevada.
Southwick was undergoing surgery Monday and is expected to miss at least five weeks, leaving Hedrick in charge of an offense averaging 39.9 points per game heading into Friday's matchup with BYU and a defense that could be the toughest Boise State has faced so far.
"There is no substitute for experience," coach Chris Petersen said of Southwick, a senior who compiled a 16-4 record as a starter. "But Grant's been doing a great job of preparing for a long time. And he answered the bell with flying colors.
"That's not an easy situation to be thrown in there. But he's been here a long time and he understands what we're doing, and he'll do just fine," Petersen said.
Hedrick is also likely to cause some defensive coordinators to work overtime preparing for a different quarterback skill set.
Compared to Southwick, Hedrick is a much better runner. He's fast, quick and can make tacklers miss. Last week, he scrambled out of the pocket for 49 yards to help set up the Broncos' first touchdown.
In the second half, he helped put the game away with rushing TDs of 20 and 14 yards. His 115 yards rushing made him the first Boise State quarterback to eclipse 100 yards since 2004.
While Petersen played down any significant changes in the playbook tailored to Hedrick's threat as a runner, opposing defenses could see a bigger diet of read-option schemes and a quicker exit from the pocket on passing plays. Teammates say Hedrick's speed and elusiveness add another dimension to an offense that has put up at least 34 points in the last six games and rushed for 407 yards overall against Nevada.
"Joe is a good runner, but Grant is on a whole different level," said Matt Miller, the team's second-leading receiver and one of Hedrick's roommates. "I think we're just as dangerous with him as we are with Joe."
Before Saturday's game, Hedrick played in spot roles. When offensive coordinator Robert Prince sought to keep the defense off balance, he'd bring in Hedrick for a play or two each quarter.
But Hedrick has also proved a capable passer. So far this season, he is 30 of 37 for 264 yards and a passer rating of 144.5 and one interception. Earlier in the season, he entered the game in the second quarter against Fresno State and confidently zipped an 18-yard touchdown pass to Troy Ware streaking wide open through the middle of the defense.
"He's got one of the best work ethics on the team and his film preparation is one of the tops," Miller said. "He's been waiting there in the shadow for four years, and when he had the opportunity ... to have that whole game to himself, he really played well."