Boise State's Southwick proud of last season, ready for new challenges

ccripe@idahostatesman.comJuly 24, 2013 

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Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick looks to pass in the Broncos' 28-26 victory over Washington in the Maaco Las Vegas Bowl Saturday Dec. 22, 2012 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas, Nev

DARIN OSWALD — doswald@idahostatesman.com

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds.” — President Theodore Roosevelt, 1910

LAS VEGAS — Boise State football coach Chris Petersen distributes a paper to his players at the team meeting the night before games.

On the front is a life lesson.

On the back are the keys to the game.

A couple years ago, he used the famous Roosevelt quote above, known as “The Man in the Arena.’’

Those words stuck with quarterback Joe Southwick, then a backup. And he used them as inspiration last season, when he endured heavy criticism before a four-game flourish that helped the Broncos win a share of the Mountain West title and a bowl game.

“This was such a life experience for me,” Southwick said this week at Mountain West media days. “There might never be a better life experience for me, just learning about people, learning about myself, learning about adversity. It was just incredible. I’m not going to lie — I didn’t step into the easiest situation in the world. I think I handled it really well.

“Now I’m up for this season’s task and this season’s challenge and this season’s adversity.”

Southwick won the starting job in fall camp last year, and had the misfortune of replacing Kellen Moore, the winningest quarterback in college football history. He also took over at a time of transition for the Broncos offense — with the personnel and the coaching staff.

Their combined inexperience led to an ugly offensive start, when the group failed to score a touchdown in two of the first three games.

The public clamored for a different quarterback. The coach stayed the course.

“Joe did as nice a job as any player I’ve been around in a long time,” Petersen said, “because of just how the season started for him, for us — and it wasn’t terrible, it really wasn’t. It’s less than a handful of passes that we need to happen. ... The nature of having to follow Kellen — the scrutiny that’s on him — it’s usually going to be the quarterback or the head coach that takes all the heat when it’s not going right. And probably following Kellen he takes more than me on that thing.

“But for him to keep working ... that’s the thing that’s hard. These kids know what’s going on. There wasn’t a day that he didn’t come in working his tail off. And then eventually it caught up.”

Southwick’s challenge involved more than just football. He needed to learn to handle the second-guessing that goes with holding one of the most scrutinized — perhaps most scrutinized — positions in Idaho.

He was heckled at the grocery store and found it difficult to go out to eat at times.

“I’ve always been comfortable in the spotlight,” he said. “I have no problem being out there and putting myself out there. It was just dealing with people’s expectations. Fans are going to be fans — I get that. We have some of the best fans that are so crazy about Boise State football and that’s awesome. Sometimes they talk like ... they’re in our meetings.”

If they were, they’d see what Petersen sees.

Southwick, he said, knows the Broncos’ offensive scheme as well as any quarterback he’s coached in 12 seasons at Boise State. That group includes Ryan Dinwiddie and Moore, two of the most efficient passers in NCAA history.

“Joe knows. He’s smart,” Petersen said. “That’s because of all the hours he’s put in. He’s every bit like Kellen. That’s underrated. People don’t know that about him.”

Southwick tossed 10 touchdown passes and seven interceptions in the first nine games of 2012 as the Broncos went 7-2.

He threw nine TD passes and no interceptions during the season-ending, four-game winning streak. He completed 70 percent of his passes and rushed for 73 yards.

“I don’t want to take too much credit for those last four games because it wasn’t just me having a come-to-Jesus moment,” Southwick said. “It was everyone getting better — and it showed.”

Senior left tackle Charles Leno Jr., who lives with Southwick, watched the quarterback embrace his dad amid the glow of victory over Washington in Las Vegas.

“It was a great feeling,” Leno said. “... It’s wonderful to see how he’s grown so far. He’s taken a lot of beatings from fans, the outside world and everything like that. He’s just been consistent — getting better every day, a model of the Bronco Way. You saw it from the Michigan State game (in the opener) to the Washington game. He got better every day, every single week, and I loved it about him.”

The 6-foot-1, 207-pound Southwick has used advice from baseball trainers to improve the flexibility, and resulting velocity, in his throwing arm.

He has studied NFL quarterbacks Drew Brees and Tom Brady to improve his movement in the pocket.

And he added about 20 pounds to his frame while improving his speed.

Petersen calls it “senioritis” — the annual push by the Broncos’ senior class to make their last college season their best.

“I just want to soak in every moment I can because once it’s gone, it’s gone,” Southwick said. “After this, I’ll never be able to go on the blue again and play in that stadium, or play a road game at Fresno, or open up a brand new stadium (this year’s season opener at Washington). I already know I’m going to miss the heck out of it.”

The next step, Petersen said, is for Southwick to refine a few details. He wants to see more accuracy, more catchable deep balls and quicker throws when fall camp begins Aug. 5.

More than anything, he wants to see consistent excellence — the standard the program has set.

“It’s a hard position,” Petersen said. “We’ve had so many good quarterbacks around here that make it look like it’s not that hard. And it’s hard.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

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