Saturday is the loudest day of Boise State junior quarterback Joe Southwicks week.
And the easiest day to block out all the noise that surrounds him.
The games are the fun part for me, he said. A lot of work goes into it. I know what I signed up for its still lots of fun. But the game is where its at.
Southwick is four up-and-down games into his tenure as the Broncos starting quarterback. He has thrown for 300 yards twice and failed to produce an offensive touchdown twice showing why he was given the job in the first place, but also how steep the learning curve is for a new quarterback in the Broncos system.
His efficiency rating was 174.63 and 176.54 against the outmanned Miami (Ohio) and New Mexico defenses. It was 87.73 and 108.72 against the stout Michigan State and BYU defenses.
Its been OK, quarterbacks coach Jonathan Smith said of Southwicks performance, in his first interview since spring ball. I wouldnt say that were satisfied. In some parts, and Joe would agree with me, were a little disappointed especially in our efficiency in the red zone.
Hell give us a chance to win games, and if he keeps improving, he can be really good.
The Broncos fans accustomed to the smooth efficiency of Kellen Moore the past four seasons arent so certain. They grumbled throughout the BYU game, when Boise State failed to score an offensive touchdown on the blue turf for the first time, and have voiced displeasure on Twitter and message boards.
Some, it seems, have even criticized Southwick to his face.
Theres a ton of pressure on him, Smith said. Hes getting it all over. He tells me all the time, he goes to the supermarket and hes getting heckled. I think hes handled it really well. He is a tough kid. It means so much to him. Its important to him to have success. He deserves to have success the way he works.
Here are some areas where Southwick has excelled, and areas where he needs to improve:
Preparation: Southwicks work habits as a backup helped him get the starting job. Theres not many times he goes in the games and gets confused, Smith said. He knows what were trying to do. He does a great job studying tape and I think thats paying off for him.
Quick throws: Southwick has improved the speed with which hes able to identify the opening in the defense and launch a critical step in becoming an efficient passer. At Michigan State, there were a couple times he could have thrown the ball a little quicker, Smith said. Hes just feeling more comfortable and more confident in what hes doing.
Red zone: Southwick tossed a red-zone interception in each of the first two games and couldnt get the ball into the end zone against BYU. Last week, he tossed three red-zone touchdown passes after he already had missed one would-be touchdown pass. The passing windows are tighter in the red zone and the decisions must come faster. The timing has to be exact down there, Smith said. There were a couple times we could have gone to a different area with the ball. And weve got to be able to run the ball into the end zone just to help him out.
Deep balls: Southwick possesses a strong arm, but he has missed opportunities in the vertical game on overthrows and missed reads. Smith was pleased to see him throw a 50-yard pass to Dallas Burroughs last week, when Southwick trusted Burroughs to beat the defensive back to the ball.
Scrambling: Southwick hasnt been effective as a runner this year (13 carries, 42 yards). He has slid or run out of bounds short of a first down at least three times. There are some times he could put his foot in the ground and run vs. maybe throwing it away, Smith said. He is an athlete. He can move. I dont think weve quite shown that.
Sacks: Coaches were concerned about sacks going into the season. Southwick has taken just two (fourth-best in the nation), and Petersen said the one last week was a good decision.
Intangibles: Southwicks decision-making has been solid. He has thrown interceptions on 1.65 percent of his passes this season (Moore holds the school career record at 1.7). He also is a strong play-action passer. There are not too many times in four games that were just blatantly, Why did you throw that ball? Smith said. Theres a couple.
Smiths overall assessment: There are some things to build on and there are some things to improve on.
Which is to be expected after four starts.
If all goes well for Southwick, hell start 26 games in his career. He might have 85 percent of his games in front of him.
This will be a work in progress until Im done, Southwick said. Our offense, were all trying to figure out where we fit and trying to work off each other.
Ive learned pretty quickly through this season, when things arent going too good, not to get too low, not too down on yourself, dont listen necessarily to the outside noise. And when you have a good game, not thinking its too good or everything is going great. And not listening to the outside noise still.
Its just showing up to work every day in these offices and looking to get better and preparing for the next game.
Sophomore backup quarterback Grant Hedrick got blasted in the first scrimmage of fall camp, which was closed to the public and media, Smith said. Lingering effects of the hit have been a factor in Hedrick not running a package of wildcat plays, like he did last year.
That could change soon.
Weve kind of thought about it each week, Smith said. I think its closer and closer to going in.
Hedrick takes the second-team snaps and some first-team snaps in practice, Smith said. Redshirt freshman Jimmy Laughrea is the third-stringer and true freshman Nick Patti handles the scout team.
The Boise State equipment truck hit a cow on its way to Hattiesburg, Miss. and a gruesome photo of the mess was the talk of Twitter on Thursday.
The accident happened early Wednesday morning about an hour outside Albuquerque, N.M., according to Boise State. The drivers were not injured and the trailer and contents werent damaged. The tractor was replaced with a rental, which pulled the trailer to Hattiesburg.
Petersen wants to see his team enjoy itself more on game days.
The kids sometimes try too hard, and its not fun, he said. When anybody is having fun in their job, recreating, whatever, thats what its all about. We started way back because this game used to be fun it used to be fun to coach, still isnt, but hopefully its fun to play. When the game is tight at the end there, we can see it. A lot of its not fun. Weve gotta win. Weve gotta win. No, we just need to do the process correctly, we need to fight and we need to support each other and we need to have fun. Its very easy to cross that line, and then everything changes.
Petersen wouldnt say what his philosophy is on having players return kickoffs from the end zone, but he hinted that hell let them go for the big play if they catch the ball fewer than 5 yards deep.
Touchbacks put the ball at the 25-yard line this year, but the Broncos put so much work into kickoff returns that Petersen doesnt want to just take a knee.
At 5 yards (deep), youre at that gray area, he said.
Chadd Cripe is in his 11th season covering Boise State football for the Idaho Statesman. He also is a voter in The Associated Press Top 25. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 377-6398. His Twitter account is @IDS_BroncoBeat.