Boise QB has nothing Moore to prove
Kellen Moore played his first game at Boise State so long ago that George W. Bush was president; so long ago that Tim Tebow was the reigning Heisman winner, backed up at Florida by Cam Newton.
On Aug. 30, 2008, the day Moore first took the field for the Broncos, he looked like an undersized kid who had little use for a razor. Four seasons later, after taking Boise State to unexpected heights (and conferences), Moore concludes his college career Thursday night in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas looking like an undersized man who has little use for a razor.
Not to mention one of the greatest college quarterbacks ever to play.
"Geez, it goes fast," Moore said.
Moore says "geez" and "neat," and he probably would be hanging out at the malt shop if he hadn't gotten married in July. Yes, he married his high school sweetheart. The 1950s just called. They want Moore back.
Off the field, Moore is a throwback. On the field, he is a throw-a-lot, a throw-accurately, a throw-to-the-right-guy. For four years, he has made the Boise State offense perform like a Rolex on college football's wrist. And now he has one game remaining.
On Saturday, he performed his last workout as a Boise State player. On Tuesday, he finished his final practice. On Wednesday, he and his offensive linemen played their last version of "The Game," which they have played at every day-before walkthrough. Moore throws passes that are purposely difficult to catch. His linemen have to catch them, anyway.
"It used to be maybe one or two throws to each guy and they'd drop it and be out," Moore said. "You gotta be throwing knuckleballs, dirt balls, changeups. It's really challenging."
He has tried to soak it all in. Moore felt this way before the last game of the regular season, his last time "going on the blue," as he put it, referring to the blue turf at Bronco Stadium. On that senior day, when Boise defeated hapless New Mexico 45-0, he threw the first two of his touchdowns to classmates Kyle Efaw and Tyler Shoemaker. He swears it was kismet. Just when did Moore not orchestrate everything that happened on the football field?
Moore has thrown for 14,374 yards and 140 touchdowns in his Broncos career. But there are only two numbers that matter. If Moore leads Boise State past Arizona State, he will have won 50 games as a starting quarterback, smashing the record of 45 that Colt McCoy set at Texas (2006-09). Of all that Moore has achieved in four seasons, he calls the wins record the "big one."
"Any wins record, I think, speaks highly of the performance your guys are able to accomplish over the last four years, our entire team," Moore said. "I was able to get recognized as a quarterback, which was really neat because the bottom line -- you gotta be very fortunate to start for four years and to have that much success in four years. Usually guys playing as redshirt freshmen are put in tough situations. I was very fortunate."
Moore took over a 10-3 team and went 3½ seasons before he lost his third game. That leads to the other number that matters. When Moore takes the first snap against Arizona State, he will have started all 53 games for which he has been eligible. It turns out that the kid too slight to get any other FBS scholarship offers is Ripken 2.0.
"I don't think we've ever gotten close [to missing a start], where there had to be a midweek decision," Moore said. "I take a few shots, you have a little nick here and there, you have some treatment. Move on. So far, we've gotten up after every hit."
If Moore didn't think so quickly -- if he didn't see the whole field well enough to know what he should do before the defensive end has gotten his hand out of the dirt -- he would have picked a lot more blue turf out of his teeth.
"He also speeds the game up so fast in his mind, where he's going to throw and his reads," said Boise State offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Brent Pease. "He doesn't wait on things. He knows how to protect himself by the quickness of his throws."
Pease used the word "luxury" to describe coaching Moore. What he meant is that Moore is one of a handful of college players who can be taught at an NFL level. The litmus test is whether a coach can pass the player in the hallway and say, "Hey, I'm thinking when we see this look, we go to that," and that's all the preparation the player needs.
"You can discuss this with him. He can carry it to the field," Pease said. "The other guys, it's discussion, make him write it, show him a good look on film, create it in practice, correct it in practice [and] if things don't look good, you eliminate."
Moore can be taught like an NFL player. The question is whether he can become one. He is one of the curiosities of the 2012 draft. The Senior Bowl, the first serious stop for the draftees-to-be and their evaluators, has invited Moore. The hardest part of finishing his college career, Moore said, is the uncertainty that lies ahead.
"You've gone through this process for five years. You're kind of so structured and into this system [that] any change almost feels a little bit weird. Any form of unknown makes you wonder a little bit."
If popularity accounts for anything, he could run for mayor of Boise.
"I wouldn't want to think about that," David H. Bieter, the current mayor, said with a chuckle. Bieter, a Boise native and a Broncos fan for nearly his entire life, was re-elected last month to his third term. "I've got four years to at least get ready. I wouldn't want to follow him, that's for sure. The mayor before me went to jail. You always want to come after somebody like that."
Moore signed with Boise State because he liked the coaches and no other FBS team offered him a scholarship. He leaves with a legacy. And if the Broncos never quite climbed to the top of the polls despite all they won -- well, he has made his peace with it.
"I think one thing Coach [Chris] Petersen and everyone here always talks about, one big emphasis, is to leave the program better than when you came," Moore said. "I think we can feel like we were able to accomplish that."
After four seasons, Moore is leaving Boise State 2,000 miles to the east -- the Big East. Boise State is in a better place, all right.
Ivan Maisel is a senior writer for ESPN.com and hosts the ESPNU College Football podcast. Send your questions and comments to him at Ivan.Maisel@ESPN.com.
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