In an era where quarterbacks like Tony Romo can grab the spotlight by passing for 500 yards and five touchdowns in a single game, it could be argued that a lesser-followed stat could be just as important — if not more — to an offense.

While fans and even media members gravitate towards big touchdown and passing yards numbers, players and coaches like to point to another key stat for quarterbacks — completion percentage.

Boise State quarterback Joe Southwick may be the perfect example. He won’t pass for the most yards or the most touchdowns in college football this year, but he ranks third out of all qualified quarterbacks in the FBS in completion percentage.

And the Boise State offense is benefiting from it.

“Completing balls is very important in our offense,” Southwick said. “And having that and showing that we’re being efficient with the ball and smart with the ball and getting some things done.

“I think there’s a couple (of stats) at the quarterback position but completing a lot of balls means your usually getting positive yards, so that’s a good thing.”

Southwick has completed 119-of-162 pass attempts through five games, good for a 73.5 percent completion rate. He trails only UNLV’s Caleb Herring (75 percent) and Troy’s Corey Robinson (74.2 percent).

The senior signal caller broke the school record for a single-game completion percentage against Air Force when he completed 27-of-29 passes. One of the incomplete passes could have been pass interference and the other was an interception on a tipped ball that could have been caught by the wide receiver.

Southwick completed 19-of-23 passes for 268 yards and three touchdowns against Southern Miss. He’s completed at least 68 percent of his passes in each of the past four games and his season-low was 62.5 percent (25-of-40) in the season-opening loss at Washington.

Backup Grant Hedrick went 2-for-2 in relief of Southwick vs. Air Force, combining to help the Broncos set the NCAA record for completion percentage in a game (93.1 percent) by completing 29-of-31 passes.

Some of it is the Boise State offense, which is designed for efficient and accurate quarterbacks that can complete a lot of passes. But some of it is Southwick, who continues to put the majority of his throws right on the money.

“I think the whole bottom line is just trying to make the guy efficient and however we can do that to make him efficient, that’s what we’re trying to do,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “Completion percentage, certainly completing passes and high percentage passes, but throwing the ball downfield matters and how you run the ball is going to help those things. So I think it’s all about efficiency.

“A lot of it is scheme, and he really understands defenses and those things,” Petersen said. “I think this week will be a really good test. This secondary is good. They are a very good pass efficiency defense and all those things, so we’ll see. These guys are good at what they do.”

Southwick and the Boise State offense will face arguably their stiffest challenge since the season opener at Washington when they face a tough Utah State defense on Saturday night. But the Broncos’ offense has been clicking of late, scoring at least 40 points in each of the past four games.

And Southwick has been a reason for the offensive improvements. He’s completed 94-of-122 passes (77 percent) the last four games for 1,102 yards and nine touchdowns while throwing two interceptions.

Romo may have helped fantasy owners win their weekly matchup last week, but his  interception late in the fourth quarter Sunday cost the Cowboys the game in a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos.

And while Southwick would love to have more games like the five touchdown performance against UT Martin or the 313 yards passing against Fresno State, he’ll gladly take the six combined incomplete passes against Air Force and Southern Miss any day.

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B.J Rains covers Boise State athletics for the Idaho Press-Tribune. He also makes daily appearances on ESPN Boise.

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