By Chadd Cripe
© 2013 Idaho Statesman
Six Boise State football players visited Shriners Hospital for Children in Honolulu on Monday as part of the Hawaii Bowl.
The visitors: sophomore safety Taylor Loffler, senior offensive lineman Jake Broyles, junior linebacker Travis Saxton, freshman safety Chanceller James, freshman offensive lineman Eli McCullough and freshman linebacker Joe Martarano.
They handed out Boise State pennants, headbands and trading cards and chatted with the children who are at the hospital with orthopedic injuries. About 60 percent of the patients are from Hawaii; the other 40 percent come from other Pacific islands.
Later, the group moved outside and tossed around footballs and shot baskets.
Loffler and Saxton produced giggles from the children by playing catch with them (see video above of Loffler). Saxton amused the kids by catching passes behind his back.
All of the players are injured. Loffler has a hernia.
“Being injured, I really like when I get an opportunity to come to a place like this and make these kids smile,” Loffler said. “It’s a good feeling.”
A LONG, STRANGE YEAR FOR HEDRICK
Boise State junior quarterback Grant Hedrick will make his fifth start and be the primary quarterback for the seventh straight game Tuesday in the Hawaii Bowl against Oregon State. He replaced Joe Southwick after the senior starter broke his right ankle on the first play against Nevada and again after Southwick led a touchdown drive on his only series against New Mexico.
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 starter-like 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, Ore., which is about a half-hour from Corvallis. He grew up watching Oregon State and attended some Beavers practices during his senior year of 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, 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 doesn’t 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.”
TRUE FRESHMAN GABE PEREZ STEPS UP
Perez, a true freshman, was one of the Broncos’ most productive players in November. He made 20 tackles, 6.5 tackles for loss and 2.5 sacks in four games. He had four tackles and 0.5 for loss previously.
Defensive coordinator Pete Kwiatkowski credits Perez’s “familiarity with the defense” for his emergence.
“He’s able to play fast and the game is slowing down for him — it shows up in his production,” he said.
PAC-12 RECORDS IN SIGHT
Oregon State wide receiver Brandin Cooks 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 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.
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.”
Thursday story: Broncos need a break
Friday blog: Watch video from Friday’s press conference
Saturday story: Southwick sent home, Patti reinstated
Saturday blog: Mark Coyle reacts to Southwick suspension
Sunday story: Hard work defines Matt Paradis
Sunday notebook: Matt Miller says players happy with Harsin hires
Sunday column: Brian Murphy on Joe Southwick
Sunday blog: Joe Southwick’s interview with KTVB
Sunday blog: Shane Williams-Rhodes out for game
Monday story: Oregon State’s Brandin Cooks is nation’s best receiver
Monday story: Bob Gregory takes helm for one game
Monday notebook: News and notes from the Hawaii Bowl
OREGON STATE COVERAGE
The Oregonian’s coverage can be found here.
You can follow beat writer Lindsay Schnell on Twitter at @lindsayrae19.