An improved quarterback and an emerging tailback led the Boise State football team's offense to victory Saturday at Bronco Stadium in the annual Spring Game.
Senior Joe Southwick completed 12-of-20 passes for 113 yards and tossed a touchdown pass on a 2-minute drill to close the first half. Sophomore Jay Ajayi rushed 11 times for 69 yards and a touchdown.
The offense won 28-19 despite a pick-six in the second half by sophomore cornerback Donte Deayon.
"You'd hope a senior quarterback would lead the way, and I think he did a nice job," coach Chris Petersen said. "Jay's had a nice spring and he's kind of picked up where he left off last year, so I think we've got a nice foundation set with those two guys."
Southwick, who said he completed 79 percent of his passes in 11-on-11 situations through the first 13 practices of spring ball, played four drives Saturday.
He struggled a bit with the high winds on the first two, but found a rhythm on the third. He completed five straight passes to set the table for Ajayi, who carried five times for 42 yards to close it out. Ajayi busted an 18-yard run to get inside the 10 and finished with a 3-yard scoring run.
He was the No. 2 tailback last year. He exits spring ball, which concludes with a review practice Monday, as the clear favorite for the starting job this year.
"Jay's just a great player," Southwick said. "He's really going to be a nice workhorse for us."
Southwick's last drive started on his own 18-yard line with about 90 seconds left in the first half and three timeouts remaining.
He found senior wide receiver Kirby Moore for 12 yards, got 25 yards rushing and receiving from Ajayi and completed a 17-yard pass to junior tight end Kyle Sosnowski on the sideline with 19 seconds left.
On first down at the 25, Southwick connected with senior wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn at the goal line for the touchdown.
That gave the offense a 14-7 lead.
"The play-calling was good. We executed well," Southwick said of the drive. "When you do that and you go fast, it puts the defense in a tight spot - and then Geraldo made a nice play on that last touchdown catch."
Southwick and Ajayi retired to the sideline at the half - leaving the offense to junior quarterback Grant Hedrick and sophomore quarterback Jimmy Laughrea. Redshirt freshman Nick Patti was injured in the first half and did not return.
Hedrick, who tossed a first-half interception, opened the second half with a 75-yard touchdown drive. He tossed a 21-yard scoring strike to sophomore tight end Jake Hardee for a 21-7 lead.
The defense countered with nine points on the interception return by Deayon, a leading contender to start this year. He intercepted Laughrea and cruised 30 yards into the end zone.
It was a nice moment for Deayon, who early in spring ball left the field with an ankle injury that appeared serious. He missed a couple of practices but returned after spring break.
"He's a tough guy and he came back," Petersen said. "That's the beauty of playing him for five games (last year as a true freshman). He's got some good game experience and he can take a nice, fast step as we go forward."
Laughrea clinched the win with a 1-yard touchdown plunge in the fourth quarter. If the defense had held, it would have taken the lead with three points for a fourth-down stop.
The defense scored on two sacks, two interceptions and a fumble recovery. The group met its daily goal of forcing three turnovers, but that wasn't enough to win the teriyaki bowls.
"I thought we were pretty physical today," junior linebacker Blake Renaud said. "I liked how everyone was running around, trying to make plays - unfortunately, we didn't win the turnover battle."
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat