Boise State senior quarterback Grant Hedrick will start Saturday at Nevada (8:34 p.m., CBS Sports Network), coach Bryan Harsin said Monday.
Redshirt freshman backup Ryan Finley might get some playing time, Harsin said.
Hedrick was benched in the second half last week at Air Force. He threw four interceptions and left with the Broncos facing a 28-0 deficit. Finley threw two touchdown passes and got the Broncos in position for an improbable rally before penalties stalled them.
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“I see a guy who was third in completion percentage coming into (the Air Force game),” Harsin said. “You don’t put him on the wayside. That’s not all on Grant. It’s coaching. It’s on me. It’s scheme. It’s a lot of other things. The natural thing is you want to fire a guy. Everyone wants to fire a guy immediately and we are just not going to do that. That’s just not who we are. We’re not going to make knee-jerk reactions. Grant is going to play better this week.
“ Grant has played well. He did not have his best game, but we’ve got to continue to build on what we’re doing.”
Harsin does not expect any changes to the split in practice snaps among the quarterbacks this week. But he said Finley’s performance could help him get on the field more. His only previous snap was to take a knee on the last play of the Louisiana game.
“I was really fired up the way Finley played. He played well,” Harsin said. “And he played with fire. He got us back into the game. Those opportunities, even at the quarterback position, will earn you opportunities to play. When and where, I don’t know that yet. There’s not a controversy at quarterback but Finley has earned himself the right to play.”
Other highlights from Monday’s press conference (adding as I type them up):
— Harsin declined to provide injury updates this week.
— “I was really proud of our defense to keep us in the game. Those guys were fighting.”
— On the Mountain West race: “Talking to the players, they understand where we are. We have a loss in conference. From this point on, every game is critical. We can still give ourselves an opportunity moving forward if we take care of our business. We know what’s at stake going into this game. We also have to continue, like we do every week, to focus on ourselves and get better.”
— On going to Nevada (the last time Harsin was there was the ugly post-game scene in 2010): “I’m sure the fans in Nevada are going to welcome us with open arms as they always do.”
— On wide receiver Thomas Sperbeck’s play in place of Matt Miller: “Thomas, we really like. He gets it. What he came into and how he performed, we were happy with it. He had a couple (nice) catches — one in particular, I don’t know how he caught it, and maybe he doesn’t either. He does those things in practice.”
— On the red zone (Boise State has scored TDs 50 percent of the time): “That’s not even kind of where we want to be. We’ve emphasized it. We need to do a better job as coaches in the red zone because we put a lot of time into it. We spend practice time. We’re going to have to find better ways to create touchdowns, period. That’s just what it is. That goes back on myself and making sure we’re doing what we have to do to create touchdowns and finding ways to do that. That’s really what we need to be doing right now. We have to create them. That’s the most important thing now. We’re going to get down there, we’ve shown that. We’re going to move the ball. We need to come out with points.”
— On the Broncos’ 3-7 record away from home since the start of 2013 (they’re 8-0 at home): “That’s definitely something that I have paid attention to, even not being here (last year). That’s a little bit of a tendency that I really don’t like from that standpoint. You address it. That’s the first thing you have to do. You have to address it. There’s been a trend that we haven’t played well on the road and the best way to start with it is to address it and make it a point that we need to play better on the road. We’ve done that. We need to continue to do that. We need to go out and prove it.”
Mike Sanford, offensive coordinator
— On the seven turnovers vs. Air Force: “If you look at our wins, we had one combined turnover (on offense). If you look at the losses, I don’t even want to say how many there were, but it’s not good.” Answer: 11 turnovers (four vs. Ole Miss, seven vs. Air Force).
— Inaccurate throws were the leading cause of Hedrick’s interceptions. He had completed 73.7 percent of his passes in the first four games. “Really, Grant is a very accurate passer. He hasn’t missed that many throws. He missed a couple in this game. That happens at the quarterback position. It happened at very inopportune times. We can’t have any more of those types of efforts out of the quarterback position.”
— The last interception, Sanford said, was a bad decision. “It was something that we talk about a lot on a particular read. I thought he was trying to get something going and forced the ball in there on an underneath route.”
— Harsin and Sanford began discussing benching Hedrick after the third interception, early in the third quarter. He stayed in for three more drives, which ended with a Jay Ajayi fumble, a blocked field goal and another interception. “We just thought that it was in the best interest of our football team to see if he could dig himself out of the hole. He played well. He hit a couple of shots to get momentum going. (After the fourth turnover) we were in 100 percent agreement that it was time to let Ryan go in and play a little bit.”
— On Finley: “It makes you feel a lot better about the preparation he’s been doing. I’m proud of him and the way he battled. When you watch the tape, footwork-wise and some of the reads that he made, were they close to perfect? No, not yet. It also was his first time out there playing.”
— On Hedrick: “I don’t really worry about the psyche of Grant because he’s a very tough individual, not just physically, but mentally, tough. A lot of his finer moments this season thus far have been showing that toughness. He came back from the Ole Miss game showing that toughness and beating a very good Colorado State team. We understand as a coaching staff and we understand at the quarterback position that is nowhere near our standard to turn the ball over four times and it can’t happen ever again.”
— Sanford spoke to Hedrick on the headset, 1-on-1, when the decision was made to pull him. Hedrick stayed involved on the sideline as a play signaler: “He’s a resilient individual. There are no issues in that room.”
— At least twice, Finley ran out of bounds behind the line of scrimmage against Air Force. He could have thrown the ball away. That would have saved yards and also stopped the clock. Except in the final 2 minutes of a half, the clock restarts after a player goes out of bounds. It remains stopped until the next snap on an incomplete pass. “That’s just playing the game, just having a feel of where the chains are,” Sanford said. “That was actually one of the things we talked a lot about. How many offensive line coaches in America appreciate a minus-1 scramble? Because those are generally called sacks.”
— On whether there will be a quick hook: “That’ll be determined by the game and the situation. Coach Harsin, he’ll make that decision. My hope is that we don’t have to make that change. That means that our team is playing well and that our quarterback is playing well.”
— Finley’s one-play kneel down vs. Louisiana was not by design. He was set to take the last series of the game.
— Left tackle Eli McCullough committed four key penalties in the second half. It was his first start. He was in the game because of injuries to Rees Odhiambo and Archie Lewis. “(McCullough) is a very talented individual. He’s a developing player who I think is going to be a great player.”
— On the run game: “We just didn’t find a rhythm in the run game. There’s some stuff schematically, I’ve got to do a better job. It’s so important. You can’t win championships, and I really believe this, you can’t win championships if you can’t run the football consistently and that’s really showed up in that game.”
— “Honestly, credit to Air Force on all those turnovers. Those guys made some spectacular plays.”
Marcel Yates, defensive coordinator
— “I still don’t think our guys believe that we can just win on defense. I really want our guys to understand that. Our job is to defend and if they hold our offense to 14 points then we need to hold them to 12-13 points and win the football game.”
— On sophomore safety Chanceller James, who made a team-high 13 tackles against Air Force: “He’s starting to get a feel for the game and what we want. He hit some people pretty hard. He’s a big body that we think is going to help us out.”
— On Air Force quarterback Kale Pearson’s success running, particularly in the second quarter: “We had players who were supposed to be in those spots and they weren’t. Give them credit — they run that system well.”
— The Broncos do not expect to use true freshman walk-on Eric Yates, the coordinator’s son, this season even though he has traveled as an emergency backup. Who’s next on the battered depth chart at cornerback? “Might move a safety,” Yates said. “Or me.”
— The Broncos have adopted a “watch me now” philosophy on defense. For the first defensive series of the game, the entire team will watch the defense play. Usually, offensive players rest and meet in the bench area. “For me, it’s always ‘watch me now’ ” Yates said. “ It’s basically the whole team is going to watch us on the field and it’s our job to get off the field. But to me, I tell our defense every drive is that.” Said linebacker Ben Weaver: “We’re going out there and really challenged by the whole team to get a three-and-out. That was Harsin’s idea. I like it a lot.”
— On defensive end Kamalei Correa, No. 8: “The last three guys who wore that No. 8 on defense are pretty special players. I wish we could put our whole defense in No. 8 the way he’s playing right now.” Previous owners: defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and safety George Iloka, who are in the NFL.
Ben Weaver, linebacker
— On the road: “We’re trying to change that atmosphere. That has been something that has affected us really the past two years. It’s a big emphasis — winning away from home.”
— On the defense: “Giving up points has been a struggle for us this year. We’ve only held one team under 20 points.”
— On the defense being put in bad spots last week: “It’s honestly kind of fun. Playing defense is our job. Being put in different situations like that is fun for a defense. You can see our inner core and what we’re really made of.”
— On Hedrick: “Grant is a natural born leader. In the locker room, he’s a leader. On the field, he’s a leader. I think he’ll continue to do that.”
Thomas Sperbeck, wide receiver
— He replaced injured star Matt Miller at Air Force. Previously a slot receiver, he has been practicing at outside receiver recently. “It felt great to be out there and really contribute to the team,” he said.
— On Finley: “I thought he played great. I thought he handled it really well.”
— On this week: “It’s definitely a huge game, especially playing on the road with our road record right now, so we need a win.”
The quarterbacks are not available to the media this week.
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