For Boise State coach Chris Petersen and his No. 24 Broncos, the biggest concern heading into Friday's game against No. 13 Michigan State was how well junior quarterback Joe Southwick would perform replacing school legend and NCAA all-time leading wins man Kellen Moore.
Well, if one game is any indication, the Southwick era will have its rough patches to say the least.
The Broncos struggled all night on offense, amassing just 206 total yards and were beaten far more handily by the Spartans than the 17-13 final score would suggest. The Broncos' only touchdown of the night was an interception return for a score, as the Spartans defense seemingly shut down everything Boise tried Friday night.
For his part, Southwick went 15-of-31 for 169 yards and an interception. Those numbers, while not awful, fail to tell the whole story of the signal-caller's struggles.
Throughout the contest, Southwick looked more like a freshman than someone who had spent the last few years under Moore's tutelage. The 21-year-old looked skittish in the pocket, often shuffling his feet and reacting to non-existent Spartan pressure. This often led to overthrows and mistimed passes, which stalled the Broncos offense.
Nevertheless, the quarterback's biggest mistakes against the Spartans came when his feet were entirely set.
Down 17-13 on his team's final possession of the game, Southwick missed on two consecutive throws that could have been touchdowns. The first of those was a guaranteed touchdown to Chris Potter as the senior speedster had put a double-move on the cornerback and was two yards ahead of the coverage. Unfortunately for Boise, Southwick's pass was short by about five yards, causing Potter to stop and the ball to fall incomplete.
That drive eventually stalled on a fourth-down incompletion and the Spartans ran down the rest of the clock on the back of star running back Le'Veon Bell.
The Broncos came into this game as underdogs, so Petersen and Southwick should simply look at this game as a learning experience and move forward. Boise returned just nine starters from last year's squad and it's obviously going to take time to get a rhythm down.
And for Southwick, there were very few tougher defenses he could have gone up against in his first collegiate start. He'll get a relatively easy opponent in Miami (Ohio) next week, so he should use that game to build back his confidence.
He may never win 50 collegiate games, but let's not call Southwick unsalvageable yet.
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