Boise State and Oregon State each head into the Hawaii Bowl with seasons less fruitful than each team wanted. But both teams are getting a chance to bounce back with a game that could mean more than just a single win.
Here are five things to watch out for as Oregon State plays Boise State on Tuesday:
— DISTRACTIONS: Boise State’s head coach Chris Petersen left the Broncos earlier this month to take the job at Washington, leaving linebackers coach Bob Gregory in charge on an interim basis. Brian Harsin has been hired for next year. Gregory has had several stops in his coaching career, including three different pairings with Petersen, but Gregory has not served as a head coach.
Gregory’s first test came in dismissing quarterback Joe Southwick from the game. Southwick was accused last week of urinating off of a hotel balcony in Honolulu, with three players coming forward to identify him. Southwick says he didn’t do it and was unfairly dismissed. His ouster leaves Grant Hedrick as the leader of Boise State’s offense.
— HEDRICK STEPPING IN: Hedrick has played well in previous games missed by Southwick because of an Oct. 19 injury against Nevada. In his past six games, Hedrick has 1,329 yards, 14 touchdowns and five interceptions.
After Southwick returned to start the Broncos’ final game against New Mexico, Hedrick came in on the game’s second series and finished with 175 yards and three touchdowns.
— COOKS SHOWCASE: Biletnikoff Award winner Brandin Cooks goes into the Hawaii Bowl with a big decision looming — whether to leave college early and declare himself eligible for the NFL draft.
But Oregon State coach Mike Riley says Cooks has not been distracted at all as he practices and prepares for the game on Tuesday.
“Brandin will do this correctly,” Riley said of Cooks coming to a decision on whether to stay or leave. “We’ll see.”
Cooks had only three games without a touchdown all year, and four games above 150 receiving yards. He finished with 1,670 yards and 15 touchdowns, averaging 139.2 yards per game.
— OREGON STATE OFFENSE VERSUS BOISE STATE DEFENSE: Oregon State is averaging 468.1 yards per game, including 382.1 passing yards (much because of Cooks). Boise State coach Bob Gregory said that presents a new challenge for his team.
“They are unique,” Gregory said. “Multiple formations and multiple personnel groups… more two-back sets than we’ve generally seen in our conference.”
Boise State’s opponents are averaging 248 yards passing per game, 410 total yards per game.
“We are young on defense and I think we’ve developed as every game has gone on,” Gregory said.
— STILL SOLID: One mark of Boise State’s down year is that it was largely absent from the rankings in a way it hasn’t been since 2005.
But Riley says it doesn’t matter because Boise State always keeps its opponents on their toes.
“Boise State has been probably the most solid football team in the last decade,” Riley said. “They’ve been as consistent and solid as anyone. They’re good.”
Riley said Oregon State has to get away from some of its “clunkers” earlier in the season and play better in all phases of the game.
“You’ve got to play a complete game to beat them” he said.