Heading into Saturday's match, the Broncos offense had been hitting on all cylinders since their opening week loss to Ole Miss. Sure, the running game had a small hiccup against the University of Connecticut, but the passing game responded with the type of game you'd expect from a senior quarterback. Boise State won that game and the running game returned (with a balanced passing game) a week ago against Louisiana-Lafayette.
That all came crashing to a halt on Saturday night versus the Falcons. Grant Hedrick, the aforementioned senior quarterback, had quite possibly the worst game of his career. This was a performance that saw him throw for four interceptions and also a fumble (in which he recovered). Hedricks's passes failed to impress most of the evening and his confidence seemed to fall further into oblivion with the injury of senior receiver Matt Miller.
Now, Matt Miller is a very viable threat on the field and this loss is never easy to overcome. With the running game not providing any sort of relief or momentum and a deficit of two touchdowns, Boise State was forced to take to the air. On this evening, the passing game was certainly not the answer. Hedrick's throws were a step behind the receivers or, in the case of the first interception, overthrown. The Air Force defense deserves some of the credit as they played with extra intensity throughout the game. Hedrick continued to struggle and by the end of the third quarter, Coach Bryan Harsin's hand was forced and he inserted back up quarterback Ryan Finley.
Finley responded with a 12-25 performance in the air and 161 yards and two touchdowns. Now, you may look at that and see that he only completed forty eight percent of his passes, but that doesn't tell half the story. Finley, after a shaky first few attempts, responded with two touchdown drives. He could have possibly provided more if it weren't for lackluster play from the left tackle position. Little time in the pocket forced Finley to rush a few throws that turned into incomplete passes. Despite this, Finley looked confident in the pocket and took more than one shot down field, connecting on a few long plays with receiver Thomas Sperbeck. A late interception from Finley dinged his final stats, but as a whole, the young quarterback performed well.
This poses the question: is there a quarterback controversy brewing for the Boise State football team? This is the second game this year that starter Grant Hedrick has thrown at least three interceptions in a game. The first game was against a SEC opponent and that can be easily overlooked due to the level of competition. A game against an Air Force team that won two games last year cannot. A team looks for composure in their senior quarterback and unfortunately Hedrick did not have that tonight. Finely did and the team responded in earnest.
Blame can be passed around tonight on the offense (including Jay Ajayi, who contributed to the ineptness of the offense with two lost fumbles), but in the end much of the drive killing turnovers can be blamed on Grant Hedrick. The quarterback can be praised for the effort he has shown over the last two years, but in the end it's his job to effectively lead players and win games. While this loss is not the end of the world, one has to wonder if Grant Hedrick's time as starting quarterback has come to an end. If there's any doubt, it will surely be played out in practice this week and come next Saturday against Nevada, we very well may be seeing the ushering in of the Ryan Finley era. An era that came about a quarter too late and very well a Mountain West title too short.