Boise State senior quarterback Grant Hedrick has shaken off an awful start to the season to settle in as a playmaker.
Hedrick was 14-for-19 for 114 yards and three interceptions with no touchdown passes in the first half of the season opener against Ole Miss. That computes to a 92.51 efficiency rating, which is worse than any of the 100 quarterbacks who are ranked this season.
But since then, he’s 63-for-87 for 735 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions. He also has rushed for a touchdown and caught a touchdown pass. His QB rating in the past 2 ½ games: 157.75, which would rank 28th — one spot ahead of Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston of Florida State.
Put together, Hedrick has five touchdown passes and five interceptions and accounts for 316.3 yards of total offense per game. He ranks 46th in efficiency at 146.05.
He ranks seventh in the nation in completion percentage (72.6), 25th in passing yards (283 per game) and 23rd in total offense (316.3 yards per game).
Those numbers likely will improve as the Broncos face some lesser defenses. Ole Miss is No. 20 in total defense, Colorado State is No. 107 (mostly because of what Boise State did) and Connecticut is 53rd.
Four of the next six opponents rank in the bottom quarter of teams in defense: Louisiana (101), Nevada (97), Fresno State (125, last) and New Mexico (119). The exceptions are Air Force (59) and BYU (24).
Hedrick played about half of last season. He finished with 16 touchdown passes, five interceptions, a 69.0 percent completion rate and a 150.04 rating.
“I feel that Grant is really a first-time starting quarterback,” offensive coordinator Mike Sanford said, “as it relates to starting the year as a starter, which is a completely different deal going into the year as the starter vs. being asked to go in for an injured player — you feel like you're occupying a seat temporarily, as opposed to being the guy. I think, really, you saw in that first game against a very good defense, him trying to make some plays, making a ton of plays, but probably forcing the issue a little too much in trying to win the game. Every week he's gotten better. Our biggest emphasis at the quarterback position last week was zero turnovers, all week, in practice, and I think he really took to that. When you can still be efficient, you can still be effective moving the ball down the field in the passing game, with no turnovers, we're playing good football.”
It was Hedrick’s first turnover-free game since the regular-season finale against New Mexico last season. He came into the season trying to improve his ball security — turnovers have been an issue throughout his career — but already has thrown as many interceptions as last year.
Now, Sanford said, the Broncos are “digging out of the hole” in pass efficiency.
“You hate starting the season off with that many interceptions because that's about how many you want to throw in a year,” Sanford said. “From then on, you realize how stingy you have to be with the football — pass efficiency rating is a statistic we place value on. All the quarterbacks get monitored every day through spring ball and through every practice in training camp with their pass efficiency rating — and I think that's something we understand, the value of touchdowns and the negative consequences of a turnover. I think that statistic really mirrors that.”
Hedrick drew criticism from fans on Twitter for his poor start against UConn, when the offense was out of rhythm. The Broncos trailed 10-7 before the offense scored its first points with 5:03 left in the first half.
Hedrick was 1-for-5 for 8 yards in the first quarter. He was 18-for-22 for 225 yards the rest of the game.
Sanford said Hedrick’s performance against UConn was better than his 432-yard effort (passing and rushing) against Colorado State because he didn’t have the support of a run game (27 carries, 52 yards).
“It took Grant Hedrick to have a really good game for us to win that game, in certain situations,” Sanford said. “He started slow, missed a couple throws early on, but he started to get in a rhythm and he made some critical throws — the third down, red-zone touchdown with the empty backfield (to Matt Miller in the fourth quarter), I thought was the play of the game, at least for us as an offensive unit. That was just a big-time throw, a big-time read, and a great catch by Matt. I think Grant didn't quite have everything clicking and the rhythm going around him, and he was able to kind of keep his poise on the road in a strange, hostile environment, go out and execute and make enough plays for us to win the game.”
Junior wide receiver Terrell Johnson made his Boise State debut last week, but he remains a bit of a mystery.
Johnson returned two kickoffs and threw an incomplete pass on a trick play against Connecticut. He also would have been the target on a couple of pass plays the Broncos didn’t get to.
Johnson lists Montgomery, Ala., as his hometown. His high school coach says he’s from a military family and has “bounced around the entire world.”
Johnson played at Saddleback Junior College in California. His official Boise State bio has no information about his high school or junior college careers. He walked on last season and has not been available for any interviews since he joined the team.
According to the Saddleback website, Johnson contributed 632 receiving yards and four touchdowns in 2011. Another stats page, which doesn’t include the year, seems to indicate he had 439 receiving yards in 2012.
Johnson played at San Clemente High in South Coast, Calif., and was the offensive MVP of the Orange County All-Star Game. At San Clemente, he racked up 478 rushing yards, 439 receiving yards, 489 kickoff-return yards and 24 passing yards (a TD pass) in 2010. He scored nine touchdowns. He also played at San Clemente in 2009.
Johnson redshirted last season at Boise State and was named the Offensive Scout Player of the Year, often an indicator of future success.
“He got into the mix because he’s been better,” coach Bryan Harsin said. “He got into the return game and did a good job. He’s been more consistent at practice. Sometimes it takes a little bit of time to get it to click.”
Harsin doesn’t know much about Johnson’s background either, he said.
“I don’t know how he got here,” Harsin said. “ He’s extremely passionate about football. He spends as much time here as anybody, watching tape.”
Senior kicker Dan Goodale’s range extends beyond 50 yards on field goals, Harsin said. The kicker tells the coaching staff his range going each direction before games, depending on conditions, but Harsin figures he could challenge the school record of 56 yards, set by Roberto Moran in 1985. The Broncos have kicked five field goals longer than 52 yards but none since 1998.
“The way Dan’s kicking and kicking off, you feel like he can go out there and kick a 55-yarder or 60-yarder,” Harsin said. “He’s got a lot of leg right now.”
Goodale is 4-for-4 this year with a long of 43 yards. He has made nine in a row since missing a potential game-winner against San Diego State in November and 21 of his last 22. His career long is 47 yards.
He also has produced 11 touchbacks on 17 tries on kickoffs.
Boise State coaches this year and in the past have noted that they almost always get results when they emphasize something in particular, such as starting fast or playing well in the fourth quarter. Last week, the Broncos won the fourth quarter 14-0 after a week of talk about it. The defense, which only had four sacks in the first two games, set a goal of five sacks and got eight.
“I'm going to start emphasizing, ‘Let's do everything really well' — that's what we've got to do,” Sanford said. “If we're going to talk about it, let's start fast, finish strong, not turn the ball over, score a whole heck of a lot of points, dominate the run game and throw for 350 yards and we'll be good to go. That's going to be the emphasis, just do everything really well this week. Because whenever we emphasize something, we've been getting results.”
Email me at email@example.com.