FORT COLLINS, Colo. Grant Hedrick looked like a Boise State starting quarterback Saturday night at Hughes Stadium.
Great throws into tight coverage. Route adjustments that went for touchdowns. More decisive runs.
Not to mention the ridiculous numbers.
Hedrick, subbing for the injured Joe Southwick, threw five touchdown passes in his second career start to lead the Broncos to a 42-30 victory against Colorado State.
Hedrick was 19-of-27 for 305 yards. He also rushed for 30 yards and a touchdown making him the first Broncos quarterback in a decade to account for six touchdowns in a single game (Ryan Dinwiddie, 2003, vs. Nevada, was the last to do it).
Everything was just a little more decisive, coach Chris Petersen said. If he takes another step in both (passing and running), being more decisive, he can be a pretty powerful quarterback.
Hedricks performance covered for a battered defense that got off to another slow start, allowed 626 yards and faced 109 snaps while dealing with a rash of injuries that makes next weeks bye more necessity than convenience.
The Broncos are 6-3 overall and 4-1 in the Mountain West. They are the only team in the Mountain Division that controls its destiny, which means the Broncos can reach the conference championship game by winning their last three games beginning Nov. 16 at home against Wyoming.
Colorado State (4-5, 2-2) was the only other Mountain Division team that controlled its destiny going into Saturdays play.
It feels good to get out of here with a win, said junior linebacker Corey Bell, who tied freshman linebacker Tanner Vallejo for the team lead with 11 tackles. There are some things we still need to work on some basic, fundamental stuff. And wed like to finish a little better as well.
The Rams cut the Broncos 42-17 lead to 42-30 in the fourth quarter and recovered an onside kick, but Donte Deayon sealed the win with an interception on the first play after the onside recovery.
There were a lot of big things that happened out there, Petersen said. That was a big play.
The Broncos started the game in terrible fashion after a week of emphasizing the need for a fast start in practice. They allowed a field goal, fumbled when Hedrick and tailback Jay Ajayi miscommunicated on a handoff on the their first play and allowed a touchdown falling behind 10-0.
It was not what a team with a 1-3 road record wanted to see.
So we wont talk about starting fast anymore, said Petersen, whose team has played its worst in the first quarter this year. Well just talk about going out and playing football. Thats probably the worst way we could start.
But at least the kids rallied, responded and played hard.
Hedrick led the charge.
He converted a key third down and scored on a 2-yard run on the option immediately after the Rams touchdown. Then he gave the Broncos a 14-10 lead early in the second quarter with a 20-yard strike to senior wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn, who made a tough catch as he was hit in the end zone.
It wasnt the best look (from the defense), Boldewijn said. Grant just played off it and made a fantastic throw.
Colorado State answered with a touchdown for a 17-14 lead, but Hedrick as he did for most of the middle portion of the game made quick work of the Rams porous secondary.
Three plays after falling behind, Hedrick and receiver Shane Williams-Rhodes adjusted to the Rams coverage with a play the Broncos had been working on for a while.
Williams-Rhodes, lined up in the slot to the right, ran a wheel route starting toward the sideline, then turning downfield. He came open and Hedrick, under pressure from multiple defenders, made a perfect throw just as he was hammered.
Williams-Rhodes bolted away from the defense for a 68-yard TD.
I trusted he was going to be there, Hedrick said. I didnt really see him catch the ball. Theres no better feeling than laying on the ground and watching Shane run into the end zone.
The Broncos made it 28-17 after just five plays the next time they got the ball. Hedrick threw 15 yards to junior wide receiver Matt Miller, who looked over his front shoulder first and turned to catch the ball over his back shoulder.
Miller added another touchdown on the fifth play of the second half. Hedrick threw a fade and Miller reached back over the defenders head for the catch.
That made it 35-17.
He kind of just took it off that guys helmet, Hedrick said.
Miller, who has been quiet in recent weeks, made a team-high six catches for 96 yards and two scores. The guy who may set the school record for career receptions had not scored a TD or gained 60 yards in a game since September.
Weve got to make sure we keep him really involved in the game, Petersen said. We have to figure out ways to make sure the ball is going his way. It was a little better tonight.
Senior wide receiver Aaron Burks added a 42-yard touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter. He caught the ball in the end zone despite pass interference.
The Broncos finished with 437 yards on 58 plays a 7.5-yard average. The Rams snapped the ball 109 times (5.7-yard average) and held it for 40 minutes.
It didnt seem like we had the ball very long on offense, Hedrick said, but we made a lot of explosive plays. We needed that.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat