Brian Murphy: Broncos’ latest loss is unlike the others

bmurphy@idahostatesman.comOctober 26, 2013 

— PROVO, Utah — Boise State’s third loss of the season, now there’s a phrase you don’t hear often, left a completely different feeling than the previous two.

Boise State wasn’t overwhelmed as in the season-opening loss against Washington, though there were times it looked that way, nor were the Broncos in it until the end as in their conference loss to Fresno State.

Friday night’s 37-20 loss at BYU was unsatisfying, as if the Broncos left their best effort elsewhere. Something was missing — an edge, a consistency, a preparedness that has been a hallmark of the program under coach Chris Petersen.

The same feeling described the offense under first-time starter Grant Hedrick. There were glimpses of the offense Boise State is likely to become during Hedrick’s tenure, however long that lasts.

There were roll out passes, a single quarterback draw, some true option plays and a few shots downfield. There just weren’t enough of any of them.

It felt like a hybrid of the offense best suited for starting quarterback Joe Southwick, who is out for at least five weeks after breaking his ankle against Nevada, and Hedrick, the backup tasked with guiding the Broncos for most of the rest of the season. It is an offense in transition.

“This will be a game we’ll all learn from and build from as we go forward,” Petersen said.

The biggest strength that Hedrick, a redshirt junior, brings to the lineup is his speed and his ability to run. That was neutralized most of the night. BYU deserves credit for keeping him contained when plays broke down. But the Broncos’ offensive plan didn’t include nearly enough called runs for the speedy quarterback.

After rushing for 115 yards against Nevada, Hedrick was limited to 24 yards on nine carries, including a 5-yard draw for a touchdown.

“They did a pretty good job of containing the outside runs. I couldn’t really scramble anywhere,” Hedrick said.

Boise State’s lack of point production — the Broncos were averaging 39.9 points per game entering the contest — wasn’t all on the play calls or offensive coordinator Robert Prince, a favorite target for frustrated fans. The Broncos did have 499 yards of total offense against a solid BYU defense, but were done in by four turnovers (three fumbles and a Hedrick interception) — uncharacteristic mistakes.

“You turn the ball over four times, you’re not going to beat too many teams,” said Hedrick, who also was stuffed on a pivotal fourth-and-1 sneak early in the game.

Hedrick completed 25-of-42 passes for 232 yards and one touchdown. Some of his best completions, including the touchdown, came on bootlegs or with him rolling out of the pocket. But most were quick throws to the outside, a common complaint about the Broncos’ offense this season.

“We probably need to utilize his skills. We’ve got to do a couple things to help him out a little bit more and play to his strengths,” Petersen said.

The Broncos have utilized the deep pass with varying degrees of success with Southwick. Hedrick connected with Aaron Burks for 47 yards and drew a pass interference call on a deep pass to Dallas Burroughs. Petersen wants more long balls.

“We need to do some things to help him in terms of throwing the ball downfield. I think we’ve got to create some opportunities to take some shots downfield. We need to take more chances because he can make those throws,” Petersen said. “I’ve got complete confidence in Grant.”

It must be Hedrick’s offense if the Broncos are to reach the Mountain West title game — the program’s top goal and one that is still within grasp despite three losses — and to salvage some satisfaction from this year.

Brian Murphy: 377-6444; Twitter: @MurphsTurph

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