By Chadd Cripe
The Idaho Statesman
Hawaii Bowl at a glance
Boise State (8-4, 6-2 Mountain West) vs Oregon State (6-6, 4-5 Pac 12), 5 p.m. PST (ESPN)
Line: Oregon State by 3, total at 64.
Series record: Oregon State leads, 4-3.
WHAT’S AT STAKE
A winning record, for Oregon State, which started the year with six wins in seven games but lost five straight to end the regular season. A win for Boise State would boost a team in transition, with coach Chris Petersen taking a job at the University of Washington earlier this month. Boise State has already hired his replacement, Brian Harsin, but interim coach Bob Gregory is leading the team in the bowl.
Oregon State’s passing offense versus Boise State’s passing defense. Boise State will need to focus on stopping Brandin Cooks, Oregon State’s standout wide receiver. Of 160 total drives by opponents against Boise State, 56 have gone for fewer than 10 yards and 74 have progressed fewer than 20 yards. The Broncos also have 15 interceptions.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Oregon State: Brandin Cooks, wide receiver. The All-American won the Biletnikoff Award as the nation’s most outstanding wide receiver after a season filled with big plays. He had 120 catches for 1,670 yards and 13 touchdowns, including 31 catches for more than 20 yards. Cooks’ performance to cap the season could be a prelude to the junior skipping his senior year and declaring himself eligible for the NFL draft.
Boise State: Grant Hedrick, quarterback. Boise State will be without part of its tandem of passers with Joe Southwick dismissed from the bowl by the team last week. Southwick disputes the dismissal, saying he was falsely accused of urinating from a hotel balcony shortly after the team arrived on the islands. Southwick had more attempts and more yards, though Hedrick has more touchdowns this year. Hedrick has completed 68 percent of his passes with 15 touchdowns and two interceptions.
FACTS & FIGURES
Boise States ranks second in the country in completion percentage at 70.4 percent. ... Cooks needs 52 receiving yards to set the Pac-12 record. ... The Broncos are averaging 15.7 yards on punt returns, second in the country. .. Oregon State cornerbacks Steven Nelson and Sean Martin, and safety Ryan Murphy, all have interception returns for touchdowns. ... Boise State has lost only four games since joining the Mountain West in 2011. ... Oregon State had five Pac-12 players of the week this year despite an even record.
Boise State junior quarterback Grant Hedrick will make his fifth start and be the primary quarterback for the seventh straight game this evening in the Hawaii Bowl against Oregon State. The Oregon high school product replaced Joe Southwick after the senior starter broke his right ankle on the first play against Nevada on Oct. 19 and again after Southwick led a touchdown drive on his only series against New Mexico on Nov. 30.
Now Hedrick will play a much larger role than expected in the Hawaii Bowl because Southwick was sent home after an incident at the team hotel.
Hedrick also has dealt with a new offensive system and a coaching change this season.
“It’s been crazy,” he said. “I think mentally it’s just been draining. Just with all the changes and everything, trying to adjust to different things.”
Coaches raved about Hedrick’s starterlike preparation when he was the backup, but the junior said there is a different feel to being the No. 1 guy.
“I try not to change the way I prepare, but you kind of do in your mind,” he said. “It’s a lot more taxing mentally — a lot more than I ever thought. But it’s awesome. It’s fun. It’s what I came here to do, so I’ve been ready for that my whole life. It’s been an adjustment.”
Hedrick is from Independence, which is about half an hour from Oregon State University in Corvallis. He grew up watching OSU football and attended some Beavers practices during his senior year of high school, when he was the state Class 4A player of the year for Central High School.
“I love how he throws the ball,” Oregon State coach Mike Riley said. “He’s a very, very natural passer.”
Hedrick called the chance to play against Oregon State “pretty neat.”
“It’s kind of just starting to hit me,” he said. “I didn’t really think about it at first. It’s kind of another game, but it’s kind of cool being from Oregon and playing at Boise State and playing against a team that’s 20 miles down the road.”
While preparing for the bowl game, Hedrick also has been an important figure for the coaches building for Boise State’s future. New coach Bryan Harsin, a former BSU assistant who recruited him to Boise State and coached him for a year, called Hedrick the night he was named the Broncos’ coach. And new offensive coordinator Mike Sanford, who is at Stanford, called him too.
“I had a couple guys in mind that I really think would be good (for head coach), and (Harsin) was one of them,” Hedrick said. “He called me the night he got the job. I was excited to hear his voice. It’s been a few years, and it’s nice for me and a few other guys, not many, to have another familiar face coming back.”
Hedrick said he does not expect juniors like him to experience big changes during their remaining time in the program. The changes, he said, will affect the young guys.
“The foundation has been set, so that’s good,” he said. “I think the real change will come with the younger guys. That will be our job to lead them and they’ll have to make a little bit of an adjustment.”
Pac-12 records in sight: Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks who has broken the Pac-12 record for receptions in a season (120), needs 52 yards against the Broncos to break the record for yards in a season (he has 1,670) and needs three touchdown catches to match the record for TDs in a season (he has 15).
Quarterback Sean Mannion needs 56 passing yards (he has 4,403) to break Cody Pickett’s conference single-season record and four touchdown passes (36) to break Matt Barkley’s record. He already holds school records in those categories, as well as for completions (376) and attempts (570). He has set single-game records for passing yards (493), completions (41) and TD passes (six).
“I’ve seen some back-shoulder throws in the end zone this year that have been pretty spectacular,” Boise State junior linebacker Corey Bell said, referring to Mannion.
Notes & quotes:
• Hedrick on Oregon State: “Their program is a lot like ours, the way they do things. They’re very well-coached; they pay a lot of attention to details. They’re going to be very disciplined. They’re going to be tough to beat, so it’s going to be a great game.”
• Oregon State’s defensive numbers are not good, but Riley says he has seen big improvement during the year. “We started off so badly, but I’ve been most proud of that actually because we’ve grown through the year,” he said. “We had one clunker against Washington where we played horrible defense. Besides that, it’s fun to see our defense get better and be opportunistic.”