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Published: Friday, 9/16/2011 - Updated: 2 years ago

COMMENTARY

Boise State's Moore a cerebral quarterback

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

With apologies to the unbeatable Chuck Ealey and the All-American, Gene Swick, when the best college football team ever to play in the Glass Bowl reports Friday night, so will the best quarterback ever to do the same.

Ealey never lost, Swick rarely misfired, and Bruce Gradkowski, who completed 49 passes at home one night and threw for six touchdowns on another, broke all of their University of Toledo records. Then there was the night in 1999 when Tim Rattay of Louisiana Tech came into the old joint and rolled up 508 yards through the air.

UT's defense will try to prevent Kellen Moore from any type of a not-so-instant replay, but whatever happens Friday when the Rockets host No. 4 Boise State, Moore's credentials seem safe and secure.

Among the nation's active college quarterbacks, the Boise lefty is No. 1 in career passing efficiency and, more importantly, career wins. He is seven short of breaking Colt McCoy's all-time Football Bowl Subdivision record of 45 victories and has 11 regular-season games left to pass the former Texas and current Cleveland Browns quarterback.

Of course, the Broncos aren't merely hoping to get those seven wins. They have their eyes set on running the table and on Moore contributing largely in leading them to the BCS title game, something never before accomplished by a team from a non-BCS conference.

Kellen Moore Kellen Moore
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That is heady territory and Moore already has the heady numbers to go with it. One of four finalists for the Heisman Trophy a year ago, Moore has passed for 11,128 yards and 102 touchdowns against just 20 interceptions during his three seasons plus one game at the helm.

He has completed 859-of-1,253 passes, roughly a 70 percent success rate that pales against the 82.4 percent completion percentage he put up in the Broncos' 35-21 season-opening win against Georgia. In that game, Moore completed 28-of-34 attempts and had three touchdown passes.

The 6-foot, 190-pounder is no secret to the Rockets. The teams met last season in Idaho and he completed 16-of-22 (72.7 percent) for 267 yards and three touchdowns in a 57-14 Boise romp.

"He's one of the best players I've ever seen or played against," UT senior cornerback Desmond Marrow said earlier this week. "He's just a perfectionist and the way their offense is run is like clockwork."

Marrow's partner at the opposite corner, senior Taikwon Paige, is hoping to get on the field "for another shot" at Moore after suffering hip and groin injuries last Saturday against Ohio State.

"He's an incredible guy," Paige said of Boise's quarterback. "He's not the biggest, he's not the strongest. But the things he does are amazing. He's the best quarterback I've seen in college, for sure."

Those who know Moore, who already is in graduate school and who married his high school sweetheart this past summer, say it's not by accident.

Described as "cerebral," Moore is a football junkie who played for his father at Prosser (Wash.) High School and who watches more video than maybe all of Boise's coaches put together. Many NFL scouting services urge caution because of his size and arm strength, but Brent Pease, the Broncos' offensive coordinator, thinks that analysis is short-sighted.

"He has great anticipation of what's going to happen," due to his extensive preparation, Pease told FOX Sports recently. "All quarterbacks are good at first reads because that's what they're there for. Some of them get into second reads. But to get to the third and fourth reads like he can, not all kids can do that."

The Columbus Touchdown Club recognized that after the 2010 season, naming Moore, not Heisman winner Cam Newton of Auburn, as the nation's top quarterback.

Toledo coach Tim Beckman was at the banquet, joining his All-American kick return specialist, Eric Page, who also was being honored.

"I wanted to congratulate Kellen, but trying to get close to him was the hard part," Beckman recalled. "Everyone wanted to be around him; he has that kind of personality. He's a phenomenal player and he's probably just as good of a person.

"I finally got to him and, although I'd coached against him a few months earlier, it surprised the heck out of me that he knew me. He said, 'Hey, coach Beck.' He's just a winner in all ways. He understands how life works."

The Rockets understand that if they can't slow him down, they won't stand a chance tonight regardless of the close call in their upset bid last weekend at Ohio State. Moore, after all, has 34 multiple-TD games (out of 41 starts) and the Broncos have more wins (107) than any FBS team in the past decade. Moore's part of that is a 39-2 record as Boise's starter.

"Moore mixes and matches, finds the mismatches in all the looks they show, finds what they need," UT cornerback Paige said. "We really have to be smart and patient and mix up our coverage just as much. Eye control, staying focused on his receivers and targets will be important. We have to stay true to our assignments and make absolutely no mistakes."

Of course, the Rockets can't ignore the fact that despite Moore's talents Boise fashions itself as a run-first offense and that the Broncos' defense is just about as good as any in the game, too.

But it all starts with the little lefty wearing No. 11.

No team as good as Boise State has played in the Glass Bowl before.

Same goes for the quarterback.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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