Joe Southwick finally showed he was the kind of productive and efficient quarterback Boise State coaches thought he could be when they named him Kellen Moore's replacement this fall.
After three games of missed touchdowns, red zone meltdowns and struggling to move the chains consistently, Southwick - and the rest of the Broncos offense - got on track for a full game Saturday in a 32-29 victory at New Mexico.
The redshirt junior threw for a career-high 311 yards and three TDs - all from inside the red zone. He spread the ball around to eight different receivers, read the defense well and made throws and decisions that helped the Broncos (3-1) convert 7 of 10 first downs. He compiled an efficiency rating of 176.54 and kept the punter on the Boise State sideline for all but one play.
Much like his calm and grounded predecessor, Southwick said it's essential for him to keep perspective in the wake of the best game of his career. In other words, avoid getting too high when he shines or getting too down on days he doesn't.
''I think it's just ... getting more comfortable with what we're trying to get done and with what fits this offense well,'' Southwick said Monday. ''Once you get in that groove, it does come faster to you.
''But I've learned pretty quickly through the season that if things aren't going good, not to get too down on yourself and don't listen to the outside noise. And when you have a good game, not thinking it's too good. I'm just trying to show up for work every day in these offices and looking to get better,'' he said.
Like the rest of the offense, Southwick has had his ups and downs in the first season without Moore, who won more games than any other quarterback in college football history.
Boise State struggled to put up points, scored TDs on just three of 12 red zone trips and didn't get in the end zone at all in two of their first three games. It didn't help that Boise State played two of the nation's best defenses in Michigan State and Brigham Young early on.
Although Southwick's statistics through the first three games were decent, and he's avoided sacks and thrown only two interceptions all season, Boise State lacked the sizzle, consistency and high-scoring threat that have been the hallmark of the offenses coached by Chris Petersen the previous six years.
But Petersen said Southwick and the offense turn a corner against the Lobos. Petersen also recognized something Saturday all head coaches want to see in their quarterback: Confidence.
''He made strides,'' Petersen said. ''To me it was some of the things we've been seeing in practice. We really hadn't seen it in the last couple of weeks. I thought last week he had a good week (of practice) and it really carried over to the game. If we can just keep building on that we'll be in really good shape.''
Knocking off New Mexico on the road, however, wasn't enough to prevent the Broncos (3-1) from dropping out of the AP Top 25. After holding at No. 24 for the last two weeks, Boise State got just 53 points in voting Sunday, well off the total of 122 received by No. 25 UCLA.
The Broncos have a chance to improve their standing in the voters' minds Saturday when they travel to Southern Mississippi, a team they've beaten twice before, including a 24-7 victory in Hattiesburg in 2008.
Petersen also said the offense will lose senior tight end Gabe Linehan for a month or so. Linehan has been dealing with a hamstring injury since the start of the season and the decision now is to give him time to rest and heal. Linehan has just one catch for 23 yards this season, but his absence on pass and run plays has been felt, Petersen said.