Brian Murphy: Hedrick thrust into the spotlight

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comOctober 20, 2013 

Grant Hedrick and Jonathan Smith have a weekly dominos appointment.

No, not pizza.

And it’s not game night, either.

Hedrick — Boise State’s backup quarterback until the second offensive play of Saturday’s game against Nevada — went to Smith’s office for a one-on-one meeting with the Broncos’ quarterbacks coach each week this season.

Smith calls out plays. Hedrick arranges the dominos to match each offensive player’s assignment. Coach and backup quarterback run through reads and scenarios for the offense and defense, preparation that they hope is never truly needed.

On Saturday, it was needed.

Hedrick replaced starter Joe Southwick, who broke his ankle on the Broncos’ first offensive play of the game, and led Boise State past Nevada 34-17.

“I’ve been preparing for this for four years,” said Hedrick, a redshirt junior from Independence, Ore. “I go into every game like I’m going to play 90 snaps.”

Now he will.

This is Hedrick’s offense for the foreseeable future, which means some adjustments to the offense that Southwick more than capably operated through the first six games.

The tweaks were obvious against Nevada, notably more running from the quarterback position. Hedrick rushed for 115 yards and two touchdowns on eight carries, becoming the first Boise State quarterback to rush for 100 yards in nearly a decade.

Southwick, as well versed in the Broncos’ offense as any quarterback the program has had in the Chris Petersen era, made a lot of decisions at the line of scrimmage, including deciding on run vs. pass. Southwick’s experience also allowed him to see things quicker and make decisions faster in the pass game than the Broncos can reasonably expect from Hedrick.

Hedrick did go 18-for-21 for 150 yards passing.

“Joe was a fifth-year senior that was behind one of the best quarterbacks to ever play college football. He definitely had more experience. It’d be kind of naïve to say, ‘Hey, we’re going to do the exact same thing with Grant.’ We’ll be smart with Grant,” offensive coordinator Robert Prince said. “Grant is going to be fine. We have all the confidence in Grant.”

That was certainly the impression left by the Broncos’ dominant second half. Boise State outscored Nevada 27-0 after halftime. The Broncos scored touchdowns on four of their five second-half drives, including Hedrick touchdown scampers of 20 yards and 14 yards.

Nevada and former quarterback Colin Kaepernick showed how effective the read option can be from the pistol formation. Hedrick’s skill set allows the Broncos to use the read option more.

“He does have an option to keep it if they play a certain defense and he did a great job with that,” Prince said. “Grant has a little bit more of a run threat and it can cause some different things for a defense.”

Hedrick has been Southwick’s primary backup for the past two seasons and played well in spot duty. But even though teammates said they knew Hedrick could handle it, there’s always some doubt.

“It’s hard to know because they’re never in there when it matters. He did a great job of answering,” Petersen said. “We’ve said all along that Grant is a very good player. He’ll get better when he gets more reps.”

The Broncos have a short week of preparation before traveling to BYU on Friday night. Hedrick’s first career start will be on the road, on ESPN, with the entire nation watching.

It’s a far cry from moving dominos around in Smith’s office.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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