Moore's will to be great unchanged
Before Kellen Moore asked his high school sweetheart to marry him this past spring, he wanted to make sure he had received a certain blessing.
So the Boise State star quarterback and his father, Tom Moore, discussed the planned proposal with Broncos coach Chris Petersen to assure him that being married wouldn’t be a distraction this season.
“It’s going to be OK,” Petersen recalls being told by Moore and his father.
Not that Petersen has ever been concerned about the dedication of the cerebral Moore, whose mental preparation for games is almost mythical.
“You don’t have to explain it to me,” Petersen told Moore and his father. “I feel good about it if you feel good about it.”
In May, Moore proposed to Julie Wilson on the porch of his parents’ house in Prosser, Wash., where the couple shared their first kiss six years ago when he was a sophomore in high school. Two months after the proposal, he married her in an outdoor ceremony in Park City, Utah.
“It’s fun,” the shaggy-haired Moore says of marriage.
When Moore and his fifth-ranked Broncos take the field Saturday night to face No. 19 Georgia in Atlanta in the teams’ season opener, it will mark the end of a nine-month whirlwind of change for the redshirt senior.
For the first time since his arrival five years ago, Moore has an offensive coordinator other than Bryan Harsin, who left in January to become an assistant at Texas and was replaced by Brent Pease, Boise State’s former wide receivers coach.
Moore also will play for the first time without standout wide receivers Titus Young and Austin Pettis, who both were selected in the NFL draft.
But the soft-spoken Moore isn’t worried. Just like he’s not thinking about his fourth-place finish in last year’s Heisman Trophy voting, or needing eight victories to break the Football Bowl Subdivision record of 45 wins by a quarterback, which Colt McCoy set at Texas.
“You couldn’t ask for a better transition,” says Moore, who passed for a career-high 3,845 yards last season and 35 touchdowns with only six interceptions. “I’m learning a ton. It’s great to kind of get a different perspective.”
That’s the attitude Boise State has come to expect from the 6-foot, 191-pound Moore. This is his final opportunity to try to make his team the first from a non-BCS conference to play in the BCS title game.
He also could set NCAA career records for completion percentage, pass efficiency and touchdown passes.
Not bad for a slow, awkward and undersized football nerd, who throws left-handed and had only two other scholarship offers coming out of Prosser High School — from Idaho and Eastern Washington, a Football Championship Subdivision school.
“He just makes you feel so comfortable on the field,” Boise State running back Doug Martin says.
Moore’s wave of change actually started with the temporary defection of Pease just a week after Boise State’s victory in the MAACO Bowl last December.
Moore knew he was losing Young and Pettis to graduation but was surprised when Pease, who molded both receivers, left to become Indiana’s new offensive coordinator.
Pease, who was offensive coordinator at Kentucky and Baylor before coming to Boise State five years ago to coach wide receivers, says Harsin had told him he was staying. Petersen, however, urged Pease to wait on accepting Indiana’s offer, but he didn’t listen.
Less than a week later, Harsin left to become co-offensive coordinator at Texas. Petersen called Pease, and three days later he headed back to Boise State to replace Harsin.
“I was coming home that Friday,” Pease says. “So I just stayed home. It was a weird deal.”
Moore and Petersen say it has been a smooth transition to Pease, who is more outgoing and intense than Harsin.
“It’s a breath of fresh air for a guy like Kellen who’s been here five years and is used to the same thing,” Petersen says. “I think that’s a healthy thing.”
But, like Harsin, Pease's play calling will follow Petersen’s run-first philosophy. Moore says Boise State has a goal of 200 rushing yards per game this season, which means more chances for Martin, who ran for 1,260 yards and 12 touchdowns on only 201 carries last season.
“A lot of the stuff we’re doing is still the same,” Moore says. “We’ll certainly have little tweaks and adjustments.”
A case study
When Pease coached Boise State’s wide receivers, he was familiar with Moore’s thinking for each play. But since becoming offensive coordinator, he has been astonished by how much Moore knows about opposing defenses from studying video.
“He’s very smart,” Pease says. “It’s amazing how much he learns and sees on his own.”
Now, Pease understands why Moore changed a wide receiver’s route before the snap. Pease knows Moore did it after a pre-snap read of the linebackers’ alignment, all the way to their depths and stances.
“He has great anticipation of what’s going to happen,” Pease says. “All quarterbacks are good at first reads because that’s what they’re there for. Some of them get into second reads, and they’re good. But to get to the third and fourth reads like he can, not all kids can do that.”
For last season’s opener against Virginia Tech, Moore watched all of the Hokies’ games from the previous season. Then he watched them again, taking detailed notes on formations, coverages and situations using a computer.
During the past year, Moore says, he has become more efficient watching video and now gets “10 times more out of it" than he used to.
Pease believes his experience as a quarterback can help Moore in some areas, but he says he asks Moore for his opinion, too. During one of those discussions, Pease marveled at Moore suggesting a play that San Diego State had run three years ago and then pulling it up on video.
Pease liked the play so much that he plans to use it this season. Not surprising for Moore, who as a child spent his Christmas money to buy college playbooks and the coach’s tape of college games off the Internet.
“I’m not really going to change him on some things because he’s been here so long and done it,” Pease says of Moore. “He knows it. As much as I want to help him, I know he’s probably helped me also.”
Last season, Moore’s focus was on staying in the pocket longer to have more opportunities at deep passes. This season his concentration is moving better in the pocket and throwing on balance. He is trying to eliminate unnecessarily throwing off his back foot and making unneeded side-armed passes while scrambling.
“I’m just trying to stay more calm and relaxed in the pocket,” Moore says.
With an inexperienced group of receivers led by redshirt senior Tyler Shoemaker, who caught only 32 passes last season, Moore knows he will need to be plenty patient. Already renown for his laser-like accuracy, he has worked to make sure his passes are as precise as ever.
In previous seasons, Moore acknowledged he could be off by six inches on a throw and his receivers still would make the catch. This season, he knows his receivers don’t yet have that range.
That’s why he stayed after Boise State’s player-run practices this summer — to work more with his young receivers. During those extra sessions he had them concentrate on running two or three routes.
Moore also held meetings with his receivers during which they watched video and discussed it.
In July, Moore was a counselor at the Manning Passing Camp in Thibodaux, La., for the second straight year. When New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning spoke about dealing with new receivers, Moore listened particularly closely.
“It’s all been huge,” Moore says.
Home cookin’ and friendly competition
Moore’s preparation also has been helped by his wife, an accountant who graduated from Brigham Young. Instead of leaving practice and debating whether to eat at Subway or Red Robin, he gets home-cooked meals like chicken pillows.
His wife also cooks him breakfast, his favorite meal of the day, which she sometimes also makes for lunch and dinner.
“We’re kind of experimenting on our own because we’re fairly young,” Moore says. “We’re not the greatest cooks.”
Normally reserved about his personal life, Moore acknowledges that he and his wife are “pretty competitive” at what he calls “cheesy board games” like Sorry! With a deep sigh, he confesses the couple has been playing the children’s game frequently, but he hasn’t fared well.
“I don’t handle losing very well,” Moore says. “Usually, if I’m losing, the game keeps going on. If it’s best of five, it becomes best of seven, and so on.”
After losing repeatedly to his wife recently at the card game speed, he got “a little riled up” about the defeats.
“OK, we’re done with this!” Moore told his wife. “We’re playing something else.”
Moore retrieved Sorry! and after finally winning, he pulled out a golf-putting mat he received as a wedding gift.
“Let’s go,” Moore recalls telling his wife. “First one to get three in wins.”
Moore sank his first three putts to win and afterward took a few verbal jabs at his wife.
“I had to make sure I finished on top,” Moore says.