Ezra Cleveland has a pretty good idea of the moment he realized Hank Bachmeier was a little bit different from other quarterbacks, especially for a freshman.
It was late September and Bachmeier — the next in a long line of young QBs to take over for Boise State — had just thrown a perfectly placed touchdown pass early in a win over Air Force. But he got drilled by an unblocked pass rusher as he threw and was sprawled on the turf.
Cleveland, the Broncos' left tackle, went over to help him up and got a memorable response.
"He got smoked in the backfield and I picked him up and I was like 'Are you good?' And he head-butted me and started screaming," Cleveland recalled. "I was like, 'Oh my gosh.' I went over there and tried to pick him up by his back plate and was like 'Are you good' and he just yelled and head-butted me."
Yes, Bachmeier is different. But that's a good thing for Boise State, which made the decision to go with the freshman in August and hasn't looked back.
The 21st-ranked Broncos will host Wyoming on Saturday still in control of their division of the Mountain West Conference, and still with an outside shot of being the highest-ranked Group of Five team and the possibility of ending up in a New Year's Six bowl game.
"It's been a big transitional phase in my life, just being away from my family, moving to another state," Bachmeier said. "But the football team has done a great job of just bringing me in. They're really my brothers and they're really my family, so I greatly appreciate everything that they've done for me."
It hasn't been a perfect freshman season for Bachmeier, but it's been pretty good.
He started the year by leading the Broncos from behind for a memorable road win at Florida State and Boise State remains undefeated in the games he's played. He missed Boise State's only loss, at BYU, after being knocked out with an injury the previous week against Hawaii.
Bachmeier returned last week against San Jose State and threw for 213 yards in a 52-42 win where the running game was the priority. It's the only game this season in which Bachmeier has not thrown a touchdown.
For the season, Bachmeier is completing 63% of his passes and has thrown for 1,760 yards and nine touchdowns. They're not overwhelming numbers, but they're a solid foundation for the Broncos this season and for Bachmeier's future.
"He's shown quite a bit so far. He's got a lot of things he needs to continue to work on. All those things that we talk about with the quarterback position," coach Bryan Harsin said. "But he's been pretty steady in his progression and he's a competitor. That's the one thing you see."
Fair or not, Bachmeier will always be compared to the last two freshmen to start for Boise State: Kellen Moore and Brett Rypien.
Moore didn't get his first chance until his redshirt freshman season but went on to reset Boise State's record book while raising the Broncos' profile on the national stage. Rypien didn't become the full-time starter until a few games into his freshman season but rarely gave up the spot under center during the rest of his four years with the Broncos.
Bachmeier said he's watched film of all the past Boise State quarterbacks, mostly to try to match the way they approached the game.
"I do go back all the time, and (Jared) Zabransky and some of those other guys, just the rich tradition of quarterbacks as a unit," Bachmeier said. "We always just watch some of those guys. And it's awesome to watch them and just the way that they played and what they brought to the table. I think it's just a staple of Boise State football."
With what he's already shown, there's plenty of optimism that other future Boise State QBs could be looking back on what Bachmeier did during his career.
"His nature, his ability to go out there and make plays, his ability to go out there and execute, not just the game plan but in situations where the decision is to run like he's done before, those have all been very positive things," Harsin said.
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