It’s not often in college football that a starting quarterback is replaced by his backup and there’s no drop-off, but that’s exactly where the Boise State football team finds itself heading into Saturday’s game at BYU.
Freshman starter Hank Bachmeier tried to spin away from a hit last weekend against Hawaii and ended up absorbing most of the contact with his left hip. The collision sent him to the sideline for the rest of the game, and all backup Chase Cord did was come in and throw three touchdown passes.
“His mental game is just next level,” Boise State wide receiver Khalil Shakir said Tuesday. “I see him watching film almost every day. Ever since fall camp, even when he found out he didn’t get the job, he was still in here grinding.”
Boise State football coach Bryan Harsin is keeping secret who will start at quarterback when Saturday’s game in Provo, Utah, kicks off at 8:15 p.m. on ESPN2. But whether it’s Bachmeier, Cord or third-string redshirt senior Jaylon Henderson, there’s no question whoever takes the snaps will be well prepared.
“It’s not like that very often when all three quarterbacks are ready to go and when they go out there, they actually execute like they did Saturday night,” Harsin said on Monday during his weekly press conference. “You never know and we got to see it in live action and watch them go operate. So, what we’ve been talking about and what we think we believe, we actually visually saw, and that’s a positive for everybody.”
Some people may have been surprised by Cord’s ability to come off the sideline cold and have such a command of not only the game plan, but the huddle. Don’t count Sunrise Mountain High football coach Steve Decker among them, though.
Decker first watched Cord take control of an offense when he was in the eighth grade, and he saw a lot of the same traits then that he saw Saturday night as Cord moved the offense down the field with expert precision.
“I’ve been coaching for 20-something years, and I’ve never seen a player like him,” Decker said in a phone interview. “You could tell his temperament right away, and the way he was a leader and people just followed him.”
Cord, who is from Peoria, Arizona, had every reason to hit the reset button in August and head for the transfer portal. He appeared in four games last fall before a torn ACL left him on the shelf for the rest of the year. And just as he was getting back into playing form, Bachmeier won the starting job.
Again, Decker wasn’t surprised his former quarterback didn’t run.
“He puts the the team first, and he’s doing what he’s got to do to help the team,” Decker said. “He has always been cool, never too high, never too low. He’s a great leader and obviously a great athlete, too.”
Much has been made about Cord’s toughness in bouncing back from his ACL injury, but even that wasn’t new for him. He suffered the same injury playing basketball his junior year of high school and was never at 100 percent during his senior year, Decker said.
With one healthy leg to run on, Cord had to stay in the pocket more that season, which proved beneficial. As a senior, he threw for 2,721 yards and 38 touchdowns, and he graduated as Arizona’s all-time leader in career touchdown passes with 137.
“At the high school level, you can do a little more things with your legs, especially when you’re that good of an athlete,” Decker said. “And for him to have to become that pocket quarterback and stand in there and diagnose what the defense is doing helped him in the long run, for sure.”
More than anything, though, working through adversity that year helped Cord develop his mental toughness, which has not been lost on his teammates, especially linebacker Riley Whimpey, who was once his roommate and had to overcome the same injury.
“Chase has always done a good job with going through adversity,” Whimpey said. “I feel like he’s always done a good job at staying positive. Even when times get tough, he has always been the guy to put the work in.”
Boise State offensive coordinator Zak Hill said Wednesday that he could still see a noticeable limp in Cord early this season. But even at less than 100 percent, he said having a backup like him is a luxury most programs don’t have.
“He’s prepared and he’s ready, and he treats every game and every practice and every week like he’s the starter, and it shows,” Hill said. “Hank is a little fiery. We see that and that’s a great part of him. Chase is a little bit more quiet and he’s got that stern demeanor about him, but the guys trust him.”
Decker still makes a point to touch base with Cord at least once a month. He called and left him a voicemail after last Saturday’s game against Hawaii.
“I just told him I was proud of him for staying the course,” Decker said. “And like always, I told him when your time comes, you’ll be ready.”
Cord’s time may come on Saturday night at BYU.
NO. 14 BOISE STATE AT BYU
When: 8:15 p.m. Saturday
Where: LaVell Edwards Stadium (63,470, grass), Provo, Utah
TV: ESPN2 (Clay Matvick, Ryan Leaf, Taylor McGregor)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: Boise State is 6-0 overall, 3-0 Mountain West; BYU is 2-4
Series: Boise State leads 7-2 (last meeting: Boise State won 21-16 in 2018 in Boise)
Vegas line: Boise State by 7
Weather: 47 degrees, rain, 10-20 mph wind