FORT COLLINS, Colo. — Another slow start did nothing to rattle Grant Hedrick and the Boise State football team Saturday night. Neither did another early turnover.
After stressing all week about the importance of a quick start and better ball security, the Broncos lost a fumble on their first offensive play and fell behind 10-0 to Colorado State early in the first quarter.
But unlike previous road losses at Washington, Fresno State and BYU, the Broncos overcame the ugly start and rattled off 28 consecutive points en route to a 42-30 win over the Rams in front of 21,133 at Hughes Stadium.
Boise State (6-3, 4-1 MWC) became bowl eligible and remained on track to play in the Mountain West championship game, thanks to a 42-7 scoring run after the early deficit. The Rams scored the final 13 points in the fourth quarter after the game had been decided.
“It was probably the worst way we could start,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “They drove down, we held them to a field goal and then we turn the ball over. Not ideal but at least the kids rallied, responded and played hard.
“It was good. I think it’s very easy to get rattled in that situation and those guys played hard.”
Colorado State (4-5, 2-2 MWC) dominated the stat sheet in nearly every category except the final score. They outgained the Broncos 626 yards to 437, had 35 first downs to Boise State’s 20 and had the ball for 40 minutes compared to 20 minutes for the visitors.
The Boise State offense ran almost half as many plays (58) as Colorado State (109) but scored touchdowns on all four trips to the red zone compared to four touchdowns in seven red zone appearances for the Rams.
Colorado State also didn’t have Hedrick, who looked much more comfortable and confident in his second career start since Joe Southwick suffered a broken ankle vs. Nevada on Oct. 19.
Hedrick completed 19-of-27 passes for 305 yards and five touchdowns on the night, tying for the second-most touchdown passes in a game in school history. Southwick also passed for five touchdowns vs. UT Martin earlier this season.
“I think it’s just all experience,” Hedrick said. “Every time you get out there and get reps, you get out there and feel more comfortable each time. … I just got in that mindset to give (the receivers) a chance and let them make plays and they did that tonight. It was huge, a good confidence booster for everybody.”
A botched handoff between Hedrick and running back Jay Ajayi on the Broncos’ first play led to a Kapri Bibbs 3-yard touchdown run that put Colorado State up 10-0 midway through the first quarter.
But Hedrick followed with a 2-yard touchdown run on the next Boise State possession — his sixth rushing touchdown of the season — and found Geraldo Boldewijn for a 20-yard touchdown pass early in the second quarter to give the Broncos a 14-10 lead.
“Obviously, you can’t put the ball on the ground the first play,” said Hedrick, who has the most rushing touchdowns by a Boise State quarterback since Jared Zabransky also had six in 2006. “It’s frustrating, but it happens in football and you just have to rebound and we came back nice.
“We’re resilient and that’s a good way to bounce back. It didn’t seem like we had the ball long on offense but we had a lot of explosive plays. We needed that.”
After Colorado State scored to retake the lead, Hedrick connected with Shane Williams-Rhodes on a 68-yard touchdown pass — the Broncos’ longest pass play of the season — and found Miller on a 15-yard pass to give Boise State a 28-17 lead at the half.
Miller’s second touchdown reception of the game — this one a 13-yard strike — put Boise State up 35-17 early in the third quarter before a 42-yard strike from Hedrick to senior Aaron Burks extended the lead to 42-17 early in the fourth quarter.
“I thought he played really well,” Petersen said of his junior signal caller. “He did a great job. He’s getting more and more confident. He’s a weapon. He’s a weapon with his feet, he can throw the ball, he’s accurate and the more he sees different blitzes and coverages, the more comfortable he’ll be.”
Miller had six catches for 96 yards and Williams-Rhodes had five grabs for 92 yards. Ajayi surpassed the 1,000 rushing mark this season with 13 carries for 91 yards.
Colorado State scored 13 consecutive points in the fourth quarter against a Boise State defense depleted by injuries to cut the Broncos’ lead to 42-30 and recovered an onside kick with 4:47 left in the game.
But Boise State cornerback Donte Deayon intercepted Colorado State quarterback Garrett Grayson on the Rams’ next play — the Broncos’ second turnover after not having any in the previous two games — to put the game away.
Linebackers Corey Bell and Tanner Vallejo each led the Broncos with 11 tackles while defensive tackle Tyler Horn, who started due to an injury to Ricky Tjong-A-Tjoe, had a career-10 stops and a sack.
Boise State, which improved to 2-3 on the road, sits atop the Mountain Division at 4-1 with three conference games remaining. The Broncos control their own destiny and will advance to the first Mountain West championship game with three wins.
“We all played hard today,” Horn said. “Everyone took a lot of reps but I liked the way we played. … It’s big. It’s big for everyone’s confidence, especially with this bye week to let everyone get a little healthy.”
The Broncos will return to the field Nov. 16 when they face Wyoming at Bronco Stadium.