HONOLULU — Joe Southwicks rocky career ended in one of the worst possible ways Friday.
Interim coach Bob Gregory sent Southwick home from the Hawaii Bowl for a team rules violation committed in the first 24 hours on Oahu ending the seniors hopes of putting a happy ending on an already difficult year.
Southwick and redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Patti initially were suspended for Fridays practice. Gregory attended a press conference at 3 p.m. Hawaiian time and said the pair were suspended until further notice.
Two hours later, in an email with no details, the school announced Southwick was headed home and Patti, the third-stringer, was reinstated. Patti will return to practice Saturday and can play Tuesday (6 p.m. MT, ESPN).
Junior Grant Hedrick, who has played most of the past six games, will start the bowl game. He was one of two healthy quarterbacks at Fridays practice. The other, true freshman walk-on Richard Hoppe, ran the scout team.
Grant got a lot of reps, Gregory said.
Southwick, considered one of the Broncos top leaders by his teammates, was set to share playing time with Hedrick in the bowl game. A starter wasnt announced.
Southwick started 20 straight games from the start of the 2012 season through the Oct. 19 game against Nevada, when he broke his right ankle on the first offensive play.
He returned to play the first series Nov. 30 against New Mexico on Senior Day. He led a three-play touchdown drive, capped by a 1-yard pass to Matt Miller.
Im really happy that we scored on that drive for Joe, senior center Matt Paradis said that day. Its only three plays, but it was important for him to get back out there on our senior night the last game on the Blue and get to experience one last drive with the offense.
Turns out, that was Southwicks last drive as a Bronco.
He was 15-4 in the 19 full games he played. The Broncos also won the two games he started but didnt finish. He leaves as the second-most-accurate passer in school history (69.4 percent) and the fifth-most-efficient passer (145.93), ahead of Jared Zabransky and Bart Hendricks. He tossed 33 touchdown passes (tied for ninth).
Still, Southwick seemed destined to be remembered more for his inability to thrive in the shadow of Kellen Moore and for producing three touchdown-less offensive performances (at Michigan State and vs. BYU in 2012, at Washington in 2013) than for leading the Broncos to their first Mountain West title and a bowl win last year.
And now theres the ignominious end in Hawaii.
Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat