After a heartbreaking loss to San Diego State on Saturday that dropped the Boise State Broncos to 7-4 overall this season, it looks like it is back to the drawing board for Chris Petersen and the coaching staff once again.
On Monday afternoon, Todd Dvorak of the Associated Press (h/t the Idaho Statesman) reported that Petersen expects quarterback Joe Southwick to practice all week and start in Saturday’s season finale against New Mexico.
Southwick, who has missed the Broncos’ past four games after suffering a broken ankle against Nevada on October 19, has certainly not been forgotten by the Boise State faithful.
It has been a tumultuous month during his absence.
Redshirt junior Grant Hedrick, who may have made his case as the front-runner for next year’s starting quarterback job, has been inconsistent to say the least.
Although Hedrick is 3-2 as a starter in 2013—with a fourth victory over Nevada essentially credited to him as well—the dual-threat quarterback has had trouble with turnovers in his biggest tests.
Against BYU, Hedrick threw an interception that—coupled with three fumbles by the Broncos—kept Boise State from ever truly being competitive against the Cougars. This past weekend, Hedrick’s two interceptions contributed to the Broncos’ 34-31 overtime loss at the hands of the Aztecs.
But even with the growing pains experienced with Hedrick under center, should the Broncos change course so abruptly and give the job back to Southwick considering the circumstances?
With Saturday night’s loss, the Broncos dropped to second in the Mountain Division of the Mountain West Conference. In order to reclaim the top spot and earn a chance at a rematch with Fresno State in the MWC title game, Boise State will have to hope that Utah State loses to Wyoming at home this coming Saturday.
The Broncos beat the Cowboys at home 48-7 two weekends ago.
At the risk of incorrectly labeling the season as a lost cause, the Broncos do need to consider what would be in the team’s best interest moving forward.
On one hand, you have Southwick—the senior playing perhaps the last game or two of his football career, who has given two years of starter’s service to the program.
On the other hand, you have Hedrick—the presumed front-runner to start at quarterback for next year’s team, who clearly could use all the extra practice and game experience available to him.
As a seven-win team, the Broncos will at least be bowling somewhere during the holidays. But the prospect of revenge against Fresno State, which is currently enjoying an undefeated season, can no longer solely be determined by Boise State itself.
It needs help, and probably a lot of it.
This argument is not to say that Southwick shouldn’t get the chance to play in front of Bronco Nation one final time. He has earned it, regardless of what has happened to the team with him as a starter over the past two seasons.
How much playing time Hedrick gets should be the decision that receives far greater attention. It was clear very early from the youth and inexperience of the defensive secondary that 2013 was not going to be Boise State’s year.
Next season is another story entirely.
To avoid heading into 2014 the same way the Broncos did in the 2012 season—when Southwick was green as a starter—Hedrick should receive at least as much playing time against New Mexico and in the bowl game as Southwick.
Joe deserves his time, but it is also important to recognize what this season has become for Boise State.
A chance to prepare for the future.