Fresno State never let Southwick and the Broncos get the passing game going in their 20-10 loss at Boise State last season. The Bulldogs held Southwick to season lows in completions, completion percentage, and passing yards, as he finished passing 11-of-22 for 113 yards.
Southwick has put up solid numbers and has shown better leadership of the offense in his second season as a starter, even after a poor offensive showing at Washington. The senior racked up five touchdowns versus Tennessee-Martin, and completed a jaw-dropping 27-of-29 pass attempts in last Friday's game versus Air Force.
"He's much more poised, he's much more comfortable," Fresno State head coach Tim DeRuyter said. "He's got that confidence now… He's played well so far this year."
For starting safety Derron Smith, the improved Southwick presents a much bigger challenge on Friday for the Bulldogs.
"Definitely. A quarterback in the same system for multiple years, he's only going to get better," Smith said. "It's going to be a tough challenge for us as a secondary and us as a whole defense because if our d-line and linebackers get pressure on him, it makes our job a lot easier. If we play well as a whole defense, we should have success again."
Boise State has continued to spread the field and push the tempo at times this season. Southwick has given the Broncos more options on offense while retaining some key principles that has made them so effective each year.
"They do a lot of the same things," Smith said. "I feel like they may have opened up the pass game a little bit more with Southwick being more efficient with the ball. They do a lot of things. They try to smashmouth-football run the ball and then get big plays in play action off of it. If you're not respecting their receivers out wide, they'll hit the quick game and get five or six yards a pop with that."
Southwick has his top two receiving targets back this season in Matt Miller and Kirby Moore. The two 6-foot-3 receivers were held to season lows against Fresno State in 2012 as the two had just one reception each for a total of 11 combined yards. The Broncos also return 6-foot-4 wide receiver Geraldo Boldewijn, who has caught three of his four career touchdowns against the Bulldogs in previous seasons.
"They're big, tall, physical receivers," Smith explained. "They have good height, good weight on them. It's going to be a physical game, even in the pass game. They do a good job of getting yards after the catch and going up and catching it at its highest point so we've just got to work on defending the pass, going up and defending the ball in the air."