Back-up QB leads Broncos
BOISE, Idaho — When Boise State’s senior starting quarterback Joe Southwick broke his ankle on the first play from scrimmage against Nevada, the Broncos didn’t panic.
Fortunately, neither did junior backup quarterback Grant Hedrick.
The redshirt junior quarterback, who had attempted only 36 passes in his career before Saturday night, was 18-of-21 passing for 150 yards and added 115 yards rushing with two touchdowns to lead Boise State past Nevada, 34-17.
Boise State (5-2, 3-1 Mountain West) won its eighth straight game at home against Nevada.
Nevada (3-4, 2-2) lost its fifth straight on the road dating back to last season.
The Wolfpack held Hedrick and the Boise State offense in check early. But it took a sack for Hedrick to find his rhythm.
“After getting hit, I was like ‘Okay, here we go,’” Hedrick said. “I was kind of getting antsy the first couple of drives, and then finally getting hit kind of woke me up.”
It was a startling awakening for Hedrick, who was the first Boise State quarterback to rush for more than 100 yards since Jared Zabranski rushed for 123 in 2004 against Hawaii.
“We see Grant make crazy plays all the time in practice, so we knew what he could do,” said sophomore running back Jay Ajayi. “We were sad when Joe went down, but we knew Grant could make some plays for our offense.”
With the Boise State offense struggling late in the first half, Hedrick provided the spark the Broncos needed. His 49-yard scamper on a broken play set up Boise State’s first touchdown with 6:06 left in the second quarter.
“I’m not going to lie – when Grant made his 49-yard scramble, I said, ‘Grant’s getting loose, I’ve got to get loose too,’” Ajayi said.
Ajayi, who didn’t see the field until Boise State’s third offensive possession, got plenty loose in the second half, often in the Nevada secondary.
His three touchdowns along with a career-high 222 yards on 24 carries helped power the offense in the second half.
Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, who refused to speculate when or if Southwick might return this season, acknowledged his team took the loss of their senior leader hard.
“I think it has us in a daze for a little bit and took us a while to settle down,” Petersen said. “But the good thing is we did settle down. I think it was a really good team effort in the second half and was as good of a second half as we’ve played in a long time.”
Nevada coach Brian Pollian found his fortunes reversed after the Wolfpack’s first halftime lead against Boise State since 1997.
“There’s a lot of good to take away from this at this point, but it’s hard because we got so outplayed in the second half,” Pollian said.
Trailing 17-7 at halftime, the Boise State offense also found its rhythm in the second half.
On their first possession of the second half, the Broncos drove 64 yards in eight plays, scoring on a 4-yard touchdown run by Ajayi. A missed extra point left Nevada with a 17-13 lead.
On Boise State’s next possession, Ajayi raced 71 yards for a touchdown on the first play from scrimmage. With the extra point, Boise State took its first lead at 20-17 with 9:31 left in the third quarter.
“Jay’s a heck of a running back,” Petersen said. “He hit holes and did what we needed him to do.”
Hedrick then added a pair of rushing touchdowns to secure the victory.
Boise State’s defense, which yielded 246 yards of offense in the first half, held Nevada to 127 yards in the second half.
Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo was 22-of-29 passing for 208 yards while Kendall Brock led the Wolfpack rushing attack with 78 yards on 18 carries.
Nevada receiver Brandon Wimberly led the Wolfpack with 11 catches for 121 yards. However, his streak of five straight games with a touchdown reception was snapped.