Moore and Boise State just keep winning

TOLEDO, Ohio – Back in 2006, when Boise State coach Chris Petersen won the heated recruiting battle for Kellen Moore – beating out vaunted powerhouses Idaho and Eastern Washington – his expectations for the quarterback were simple.

“He’d win the Heisman Trophy,” Petersen said.

Petersen deadpanned that line only to immediately start laughing, partly at the ridiculousness of the question and partly at the answer. It was also because Moore and his fourth-ranked Broncos had just delivered a 40-15 victory Friday night over Toledo, so the coach was in a good mood.

Boise State QB Kellen Moore delivered another prime-time performance on Friday.
(US Presswire)

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Moore went 32-for-42 passing for 455 yards and five touchdowns. He was so devastating that by the third quarter much of the overflow crowd went scattering into the night. The game felt hopeless.

Kellen Moore is about the most unlikely Heisman contender you’ll ever find. Essentially no one wanted him coming out of high school. He plays in the Mountain West and will forever deal with questions about the competition he faced. His school can only spend so much money on his campaign.

The Heisman is an award that too often sinks into the ridiculousness of groupthink or marketing campaigns or regionalism or momentum. Moore isn’t likely to have any of those things going for him.

All he has is a remarkable accuracy and Petersen’s pyrotechnic offense.

In the first half he went 19-for-23 for 298 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those incompletions were drops. The other two were batted down at the line of scrimmage. Everything else was money – be it a sizzling out pattern or a scrambling seam route or the simple screen pass.

“Whatever’s working is working and whatever presents itself presents itself,” Moore said with a shrug, and, yes, that’s about as much bravado as you’re getting out of him publicly. He seemed more comfortable discussing his one interception – “a bad ball.”

Here’s what everyone else says: his accuracy is uncanny. Every pass feels catchable. Running back Doug Martin racked up 122 receiving yards and just laughed at how easy his QB made it.

Moore finds the holes in the defense. He checks through his progressions quickly. When needed, he makes daring tosses. He threw one first-half pass to his brother Kirby – a timing pass that whipped just over a still-turning-around-defenders’ helmet.

He’s the son of a coach who didn’t just start playing the game at age 6, but studying it. The Moore home had actual youth film study.

“He’s been doing this for a long time,” Petersen said. “I’d like to say it’s because he’s a fifth-year senior, but he’s been doing this since he was a freshman.”

Moore says it is just practice and more practice.

“It takes 10,000 hours to be an expert, I just heard in school,” Moore said, repeating the Malcolm Gladwell principle.

So how many do you have?

“I don’t know,” he smiled. “I’ve got a few hours.”

“I think he probably has about 15,000 hours,” Petersen said. “Because he started when he was about 6-years old being trained on this stuff. He’s been doing his a long, long time, studying football like not a lot of guys out there.”

Boise State fans made the trek to Toledo to show their support for the Broncos and for Kellen Moore.

Moore has grown since those days in Prosser, Wash., and is now listed at 6 feet and 191 pounds. Both of those numbers might be generous. There were a slew of NFL scouts here Friday to see him in person, but there is no consensus on his pro ability.

Petersen’s best advice?


Moore just puts it all off. He wants to lead Boise State to a victory every game this year and hope it’s enough to earn a shot at the national title. There isn’t a lot of looking ahead with the guy. He said he considers the Heisman hype “great [publicity] for the university” and that’s about it. The NFL stuff can wait.

He knows the doubts will remain. Numbers will be questioned. There’s the size. There’s the arm strength. There’s the competition level. There’s whatever people love to come up with to try to keep Boise State in its place, the newcomer that keeps coming, led by the quarterback who everyone else ignored.

“He’s one of the best quarterbacks in the country,” Petersen said. “He’s consistent. He’s the same every game. It sounds like a boring answer, but it’s probably the best compliment I can give him. He plays at an extremely high level all the time. And not many players do that.”

As Petersen spoke, Moore was signing autographs and shaking hands with the impressive number of Broncos fans who had turned out for the game. The rest of the Glass Bowl was empty, a big night on campus here ruined by the Broncos and their star quarterback.

The Heisman hype can wait. The NFL potential can be tabled. Boise is 2-0, ranked fourth and on this beautiful evening, that’s more than enough for the unlikely contender to be the best player in college football.

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Dan Wetzel is Yahoo! Sports' national columnist. He is the co-author of the book "Death to the BCS: The Definitive Case Against the Bowl Championship Series," which following five printings of the first edition was re-released in a second, updated edition in October. Follow him on Twitter. Send Dan a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated Saturday, Sep 17, 2011