Kellen Moore watched some video this summer to prepare for Boise State’s season opener against Virginia Tech.
At least that’s how he initially describes what he did to familiarize himself with the 10th-ranked Hokies for Monday night’s game at FedEx Field in Landover, Md.
“You prep a little bit,” Moore says.
But don’t be fooled by Moore’s modesty. The coy junior quarterback for the No. 3-ranked Broncos prepares for games as meticulously as an NFL coach.
First, he watched all of Virginia Tech’s games from last season. Then he watched them again, taking detailed notes on formations, coverages and situations using a computer.
In June, Moore and Boise State offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin simulated a game week of preparation for Virginia Tech. Moore also has been known to play the video game NCAA Football to gain a better understanding of opposing defenses.
“He’s a self-made dude,” says Boise State defensive end Ryan Winterswyk, one of Moore’s roommates. “All the reason he’s doing good is because of all the work he puts in.”
That diligence has helped Moore overcome the limitations that come with being an awkward 6-foot, 187-pound pocket passer, and made the left-handed thrower perhaps college football’s best quarterback. And this season, the football nerd has a chance at a once-unimaginable double feat for a team from a non-BCS conference: a national championship and a Heisman Trophy.
“I’ve known for a while that I’m kind of an oddball,” says Moore, who is 26-1 as a starter at Boise State and finished seventh in last season’s Heisman race. “But my big thing is you’ve got to be as prepared as you possibly can be. If I’m prepared, I feel good going into the game and think we’re going to be successful.”
Says Boise State coach Chris Petersen, “He’s got great knowledge and instincts to go with it.”
During Boise State’s 14-0 campaign last season that was capped with a victory against Texas Christian in the Fiesta Bowl, Moore threw for 3,536 yards with an amazing 39 touchdowns and just 3 interceptions.
Statistics don’t matter to Moore, but Harsin has cautioned him not to expect to exceed or even match his numbers from last season. It’s possible that Moore might have worse statistics, but actually play better this season.
Still, Harsin’s goals for Moore this season are at least a 160 pass efficiency rating, a 60 percent completion rate, 30 touchdown passes as well as 10 or fewer interceptions and 15 or fewer sacks.
Last season Harsin emphasized not taking sacks, and Moore took only five. This year Harsin has encouraged him to stay in the pocket longer.
“Maybe it is taking more sacks as far as keeping the passing game alive and staying in that pocket longer,” Moore says. “Sometimes that might look bad. It’s like, ‘OK, now we have 10 sacks.’ We’ve doubled the sack number, but we’re making better decisions that way.”
During the offseason, Moore focused on his pocket presence. He worked on being quicker in his progressions, stepping in to his throws, and throwing more deep passes. Harsin says he’s also become quicker and more agile.
Those improvements are sure to be as frustrating for opponents as they have been for his defensive teammates in practice.
“Sometimes, we want to call him something, but it’s usually a swear word or something because he’s fitting the ball in like a one-foot window and you had everything dialed up,” Winterswyk says. “It’s like, ‘Really, Kellen?”
In practice, Winterswyk says he sometimes comes out of his stance and yells at Moore before the snap to try to distract him. Unflustered, Moore almost always winks at him and usually then throws a touchdown pass.
“It’s fun playing with a guy like that who’s so smart and can also have a good time out there,” Winterswyk says.
Moore’s rigorous preparation pre-dates his arrival at Boise State. The son of a football coach, as a child he used his Christmas money to buy playbooks and coach’s tape of college games off the Internet.
He also drew enough plays to fill stacks of notebooks. Even now, he records as many college and NFL games as he can.
“You want to see as much as you can,” says Moore, who had only three scholarship offers coming out of two-stoplight Prosser, Wash.
Yet as tireless as Moore is in his preparation, he did take time out this past summer to enjoy the outdoors of the scenic Treasure Valley. After morning workouts, he and his teammates often hit the Boise River in tubes for afternoon floats.
“It’s just really nice and easy,” he says.
Moore also worked on his golf game, which admittedly hadn’t been good. He’s still trying to straighten his “killer slice,” but by the end of the summer, he was shooting around 90.
His highlight was nine holes in the low 40s.
“Gosh, he’s starting to venture out a little bit more,” Harsin says with a laugh.
And it’s not just his preparation that Moore is coy about. When Moore was at the famed Manning Passing Academy in July, Winterswyk says he had to ask around to find out where he went.
“He’s just a totally low-key guy,” Winterswyk says.
At the Manning camp, Moore received the “most likely to be carded at the bar” award for his baby-face appearance.
“They gave me a little crap about that,” Moore says.
Not that it really bothered him. He’d rather be home preparing anyway.