Bronco Beat: Grant Hedrick — Boise State’s new B.J. Rhode

ccripe@idahostatesman.comOctober 24, 2013 

B.J. Rhode watched Saturday’s Boise State football game on TV. When it was clear that starting quarterback Joe Southwick would be sidelined for a while, he joked with his wife about his own niche in Broncos history.

“Uh-oh,” he told her. “You’re going to see my name in the paper tomorrow.”

Rhode was the last Boise State backup quarterback to start a game because of an injury to the starter — as a senior in 2002.

The Broncos can only hope the latest backup-turned-starter — junior Grant Hedrick, who will make his first college start Friday at BYU (6:06 p.m., ESPN) — performs as well.

The Broncos went 4-0 in the games that starter Ryan Dinwiddie missed with a broken ankle in 2002, scoring 52 points a game. Rhode was 72-of-111 for 969 yards with eight TDs and three interceptions — good for a 156.57 rating.

One of his wins came against Hawaii — an early-season game that decided the WAC title.

“It was awesome,” said coach Chris Petersen, who was the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach then. “I don’t think a lot of people expected him to come out and play like he did. There were some games that were very critical to us.”

Said tight ends coach Scott Huff, who was the starting center in 2002: “We have all the confidence in the world in Grant, just like we had all the confidence in the world in B.J. Rhode. It worked out pretty well for us back then.”

Hedrick’s situation is eerilysimilar to Rhode’s.

Both were veterans with previous game experience — Hedrick in specialty roles, Rhode in a spot start in 2001 when Dinwiddie was suspended (also a win).

Both took over for a starter who broke an ankle in the first half.

Both had to start the next game on the road — although Rhode’s game, at Wyoming, was less daunting than Hedrick’s trip to Provo.

And both took over knowing the starter was likely to return in five or six weeks.

“It’s funny how history repeats itself in a weird way,” Rhode said. “It’s sad for Joe, who was having a great year, really starting to come into his own. I feel bad for him. It’s an exciting opportunity for Grant.”

Rhode describes the game in which Dinwiddie was injured — a 41-14 loss at Arkansas — in much the same way that Hedrick described his appearance in Saturday’s comeback win.

“It was kind of a whirlwind for a couple drives,” said Rhode, who threw two touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. “At halftime, I got to settle down.”

His preparation changed when he became the starter, like Hedrick’s did this week. The starter gets more snaps and usually runs the specialty plays put into each game plan exclusively.

“It’s just nice to be in the huddle with the starters,” Rhode said.

But it wasn’t long before he realized his stay would be short-lived.

“For the first couple weeks, you know you’re the guy with no questions,” he said. “Then after that, you start to see him out there running, you start to see him out there throwing. The coaches all sit you down and say, ‘Here’s where we’re at.’ ”

Dinwiddie sat five weeks — four games and a bye. Week six was a big home game against Fresno State, and he wanted to play.

Coaches decided to start Rhode, give Dinwiddie the first series of the second quarter and decide what to do from there.

“Obviously (406) yards and (67) points later, we knew he was fine,” Rhode said. “I wasn’t upset. Yeah, I was disappointed. I played pretty good. But we knew the score. I know Grant will know the score. … I believe if he’s healthy, (Southwick) will get his job back. Grant will have experience if something happens.”

Hedrick also will have an unforgettable experience.

Rhode, who played behind two of the best quarterbacks in school history in Bart Hendricks and Dinwiddie, was an integral part of the Broncos’ first Top 25 season.

“It just validated all the years that you put into it and all the hard work,” he said. “It wasn’t for naught. I like to think and believe if I’d never gotten major playing time, I would still believe that. … My family, I love my family — they came and watched me ride the bench many games. For them to come and see me play and play well, that’s special, too.”

Rhode lives in Meridian with his wife and three children. He teaches special education and is the junior varsity coach at Eagle High.

His advice for Hedrick:

“I’d tell him to just trust himself. The things he’s good at, they will emphasize,” Rhode said. “… He’s got plenty of tools to get the job done. If (the coaches) didn’t believe that, if Petersen and (offensive coordinator Robert Prince) didn’t believe that, he wouldn’t be the guy that went in. Trust in his skills and have fun. You don’t know how long it will last.”

•••

BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall and Petersen have become good friends. They’ll clash Friday for the second time in what is planned as a 12-game series.

“He is a great friend and a really good person,” Mendenhall said. “In the head-coaching world, he is one of the good guys, meaning that I think he has balanced priorities in his life. A really good marriage, a great family and I think he runs his program with a lot of class.”

QUICK HITS

The Broncos practiced on grass Tuesday to prepare for LaVell Edwards Stadium’s surface. It’s their first game on grass this season. … The Broncos plan to wear black pants, black helmets and white jerseys. … The Broncos have won 50 straight October games and 21 straight against Utah schools. … BYU is 44-9 at home under Mendenhall. … The Broncos are second in the nation in completion percentage at 73.1. East Carolina is first at 73.7.

Chadd Cripe is in his 12th year as the Idaho Statesman beat writer for Boise State football. He also is a voter for The Associated Press Top 25. You can contact him at ccripe@idahostatesman.com, follow him on Twitter at @IDS_BroncoBeat and read his blog at blogs.idahostatesman.com/broncobeat.

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