Electrifying one snap.
Stupefying the next.
Thats the joy and the pain of playing true freshmen in college football.
Boise State uses the first-year players sparingly but for the second straight year, the Broncos have played five in 2012.
They have used 23 true freshmen in the past six seasons most of whom have grown into starters and, in many cases, stars.
I forget until we play a bunch of them how painful it can be, coach Chris Petersen said. I just love them when they become sophomores. I like them when theyre freshmen.
The highs and lows were on full display last week at New Mexico.
Early in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes embarrassed a defender with a sudden inside-outside cut for an 8-yard touchdown. That wiggle move, as quarterback Joe Southwick called it, is the reason Williams-Rhodes isnt redshirting this year.
But on the Broncos third snap after that touchdown, Williams-Rhodes fumbled on a fly sweep. The Lobos scooped the ball and returned it to the 1-yard line fueling their near comeback.
The Broncos dont allow their true freshmen to speak to the media, but 10 veterans on this years team went through that experience.
They made some major mistakes of their own and now are among the most reliable players on the team.
My confidence level is so much higher this year, said sophomore nickel Corey Bell, who played as a true freshman last year. You see it in little things. On kickoff return, youd be desperately sprinting to try to make a block. This year, you feel like youre in more of a controlled environment. You understand whats going on around you.
Sophomore safety Lee Hightower, who also played last year, said hes reached out to Williams-Rhodes and tailback Jack Fields, who fumbled inside the Broncos 10-yard line against Miami (Ohio).
Everybody is going to make mistakes, Hightower said. Im going to make mistakes. Our seniors are going to make mistakes. Everybody just has to bounce back.
Hightower like most true freshmen learned that the hard way.
He let TCU wide receiver Josh Boyce run behind him for a 69-yard touchdown last year. He thought he was getting help from a safety.
Not being in tune with the defense, he said of what happened. Being out there a little jittery, a little nervous.
Sophomore linebacker Blake Renaud started on the kickoff team in his first college game last year against Georgia. He was on the field for the opening kickoff a play that wont go on his highlight reel.
Somebody just nudged me and I fell on my face, he said.
Junior wide receiver Kirby Moore made his most notable mistake on one of his most memorable plays the first touchdown of his career, on a 61-yard pass from brother Kellen Moore in 2009.
Kirby ran the wrong route. He was supposed to run a wheel route and settle along the sideline. Instead, he kept going.
His brother got him the ball anyway.
We had a similar play with the same motion, Kirby said. I didnt even listen to the play call. I just heard the motion and was like, All right.
Thats what happens in college football when you dont yet truly know what youre doing.
Its a unique experience, Moore says, for an 18-year-old a few months removed from high school to compete against players who are 22 or 23.
Sometimes, he said, your head is spinning out there on the field.
BOISE STATES FIVE TRUE FRESHMEN WHO ARE CONTRIBUTING THIS SEASON
HAYDEN PLINKE, TIGHT END
Joined team: January
Hometown: Hillsboro, Ore.
Size: 6-foot-4, 255 pounds
Why hes playing: Youth and injuries at tight end left a hole on the depth chart.
Role: Starts on two special-teams units and plays on five, where he has been productive. He should get more playing time on offense with the injury to Gabe Linehan.
Stats: One catch, 14 yards
Future: Plinke has the tools to become the rarest of Broncos a tight end who is a dominant blocker and big-play receiver.
Quotable: You can see that he can run and he can catch and hes definitely bigger than most of the guys we have. You can see that were pretty excited about him and why. Tight ends coach Scott Huff, during fall camp
TYLER GRAY, LINEBACKER
Joined team: January
Hometown: Templeton, Calif.
Size: 6-foot-4, 227 pounds
Why hes playing: Coaches wanted to add some height and athleticism to the special teams and linebacker corps.
Role: Starts on two special-teams units and plays on five. Like Plinke, he has been productive.
Stats: 2 tackles, 0.5 tackles for loss
Future: Gray fits the mold of former playmaking weak-side linebacker Aaron Tevis.
Quotable: The guys a really good athlete. The guy can run. Hes not afraid to hit you. Hes big and tall. We wanted some taller guys having a guy whos a little bit longer-levered helps us. Linebackers coach Bob Gregory
SHANE WILLIAMS-RHODES, WIDE RECEIVER
Joined team: August
Hometown: Spring, Texas
Size: 5-foot-6, 154 pounds
Why hes playing: Williams-Rhodes lateral quickness gives the Broncos a dimension in their offense that was missing.
Role: Averages 3.5 touches per game on sweeps and short throws that allow him to use his elusiveness in the open field.
Stats: 8 carries, 29 yards; 6 catches, 44 yards, TD
Future: He always will be used this way get the ball in his hands and let him work. But he likely will become a more complete receiver and should develop into a punt and kickoff returner.
Quotable: I wish I could do that. That just shows how explosive he is and what he can do in this offense. Sophomore wide receiver Matt Miller, on Williams-Rhodes defender-spinning cut for a TD last week
JACK FIELDS, TAILBACK
Joined team: August
Hometown: El Paso, Texas
Size: 5-foot-9, 194 pounds
Why hes playing: The Broncos needed a fourth tailback and all of the candidates are true freshmen. Fields was the most physically prepared.
Role: One of three players competing for the No. 2 tailback spot.
Stats: 14 carries, 51 yards
Future: Fields, redshirt freshman Jay Ajayi and true freshman Devan Demas, who is redshirting, will highlight the tailback rotation next year and possibly for the next three years.
Quotable: I love the offense. Its very balanced. Just seeing Doug Martin and the way he runs hes downhill, hes a great blend of power and speed I felt like I could fit well in that offense. Fields, when he committed in June 2011
ARMAND NANCE, DEFENSIVE TACKLE
Joined team: August
Size: 6-foot, 273 pounds
Why hes playing: The Broncos needed a fifth tackle and Nance was the underclassman who stepped up.
Role: Easing his way into the tackle rotation.
Stats: 4 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss
Future: Three of the top four tackles are seniors, so Nance could compete for a starting spot next year.
Quotable: I love the history. I love the record, the seasons yall have had previously. The coach of the team is great. It feels right and I just love that blue turf. Nance, when he committed in June 2011
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat