Joe Southwick passed his first test as Boise States starting quarterback deftly handling Sunday afternoons question-and-answer session with the Boise-area media.
His second challenge, at No. 13 Michigan State on Friday night, promises to be much tougher.
The Spartans defenders wont be equipped with notepads and television cameras. The 75,000 fans at Spartan Stadium want to see him get hit (a lot), not chat about his football past.
But if Sundays gabfest was any indication, Southwick can handle himself under pressure and, as importantly, he knows exactly what his job entails.
Just being smart with the ball. Thats something coach (Chris Petersen) and me have talked about, Southwick said. Its just limiting turnovers and not taking sacks. Those are two categories in college football and the NFL that dictate a lot of what happens in a football game.
Kellen Moore, who departed Boise State with more victories than any quarterback in major college football history, did those two things better than just about anyone to ever play the position.
Boise State has ranked in the top five in the country in fewest sacks each of the past four years, including No. 1 in 2009 and 2011. Moore, a four-year starter, has the second-lowest career interception percentage in NCAA history.
No one is expecting Southwick whose excitable personality is a contrast to Moores eerily calm demeanor to be exactly like his iconic predecessor. But the coaching staff will demand that he play the position with similar smarts.
It was Southwicks knowledge of the Broncos complex offense that turned the four-man competition to replace Moore into a one-man audition throughout fall camp.
In the end, the decision simply wasnt that much of a choice. Southwick made it that clear, seizing the spot from spring through fall.
Now he must showcase that command in real games, under real pressure, with the eyes of Bronco Nation squarely upon him.
Its not like hes the finished, final product. Nobody on our team is. But that guy has got the ball in his hands every single snap for us, so it has to be right, it has to be exact and it has to be now, Petersen said. ... It starts at that position right there. Theres just a couple things weve got to make sure that guy does to be successful.
Southwick knows precisely what he is stepping into. He has had a front-row view to Moores excellence and the heights to which he took the program. He knows the legacy left behind.
For all the hand-wringing about the star power the Broncos have lost, Southwick is stepping into a veteran huddle. Boise State has a sixth-year senior tailback, an offensive line that has eight players with starting experience, a deep, versatile and experienced tight end crew and 250 career catches among its wide receivers.
The biggest question mark is and will be Southwick. At least until he delivers under the bright lights.
That kind of goes back to me stepping into that leadership role, he said. Just me stepping in and running the show not trying to do too much. Knowing that you have great players around you helps you out a lot.
Friday night, under the brightest of lights, the junior gets his first chance to show everyone that Boise State made the right choice in turning the offense over to him.
His first chance to erase the question mark.
His first chance to craft his own legacy.
Its Joes turn now.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444