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In the end, it came down to gut feelings and instincts both Chris Petersen’s and Kellen Moore’s.
Petersen, Boise State’s head football coach, said it was intuition and simply having a hunch as much as anything that led to his and offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin’s decision to name Moore, a redshirt freshman from Prosser, Wash., as the Broncos’ starting quarterback.
“At the end of the day, it comes down to that feeling that you’ve got to give somebody the nod and let him roll,” said Petersen during Wednesday’s press conference announcing the decision, “and we’re both kind of feeling that it’s Kellen’s time to go.”
The decision, said Petersen, came down to “a gut feeling between myself and coach Harsin and the rest of the offensive coaches; really our whole staff. We felt this is the guy we want to pull the trigger with; let him go and get some more reps and get ready to play.”
And it was the football instincts that Moore displayed on the practice field during summer camp that probably separated him from the rest of the quarterbacks in their battle for the starting position.
“There are a lot of instinctual things [he possesses] that are very, very hard to coach,” Petersen said. “In fact, I don’t think you can coach them in terms of seeing the field, which he’s got a great knack for. That’s really the bottom line.”
Another probable factor in Moore’s sixth sense as a QB is his upbringing. His coach at Prosser High School was his dad, Tom Moore. And as a coach’s son, the 6-foot, 187-pound lefthander seems to have an understanding of and an insight into the game that is uncommon for one who has yet to throw a pass in a college contest, Petersen said.
“He’s certainly different than any of the young guys I’ve been around in terms of how far along he is mentally in the whole scheme of things,” the coach commented. “I can’t wait to watch him play because he’s got a tremendous feel for the game. You can coach guys up’ and really teach them reads and where to go with the ball, but things change very fast out there [on the field], and lot of that comes down to instinct and quick decisions that are hard to teach. In fact, you can’t teach them; that’s where we think he excels.”
Petersen, the son of a former football coach himself, knows that a lifetime of exposure to the sport probably accelerated Moore’s development as a quarterback.
“You can get better with experience,” he said. “But you can really tell that being around his dad, [Moore’s] skill were developed earlier and honed earlier, and now he’s reaping the benefits of it.”
“Since I was little I’ve been around high school practices with my dad,” said Moore as he sat alongside Petersen at the press conference. “I’ve prided myself on being as prepared as I can possibly be and [ready] for whatever situation comes to me.”
Petersen said it really wasn’t a choice between senior Bush Hamdan’s maturity and experience and Moore’s instincts and intuition. He said Bronco coaches ignored the media hype over the battle between the two and did their best to base their decision on what transpired on the practice field.
“We wanted it to play out and just get feel for [the final decision] at the end because we knew it was going to be close,” he coach said. “That’s what happened. When it was all said and done, Kellen was guy we were feeling strong about. ... We feel that Kellen gives us the best chance to win right now. We’ll play a freshman, we’ll play a senior. Whoever we think we can win with right now, that’s the guy we’re going with.”
Calling Hamdan one of his favorite players ever, Petersen said it was tough to tell the fifth-year senior that he came in second again. Hamdan suffered the same fate in last year’s fall camp when he was edged out for the starting position by Taylor Tharp.
“It’s kind of a bittersweet day because we feel awesome about Kellen,” Petersen said. “But that’s a hard thing to tell somebody who has been here for five years, has done everything we have asked, has been a tremendous ambassador for our football program and this university, has gotten better every year, including this year ... and to have that conversation was tough. He’s a first-class guy. He’s going to help us anyway he can; we will need Bush to win, without question.”
But now the focus is on Moore, who will become the first freshman quarterback to start the season opener for the Broncos.
“I’m pretty excited about the opportunity and very thankful that the coachers have confidence in me,” he said. “I feel I’m ready to take over and follow the long tradition of [outstanding] quarterbacks at this school. ... great quarterbacks like Bart [Hendricks], [Ryan] Dinwiddie, Jared Zabransky and Taylor [Tharp] last year.”
Granted, Moore has yet to play a down at the college level. But it’s hard to ignore the numbers he compiled, the records he set, and the awards he accumulated during his career at Prosser High.
And if he comes close to duplicating the record-setting numbers he amassed at the high school level, Bronco fans could be in for an entertaining four years. His statistics at Prosser include:
Washington’s state career records for completions (787) and touchdown passes (173)
Washington’s state single-season records for completions (317 as a junior), yards (4,600 as a junior) and touchdown passes (67 as a senior)
A career pass completion rate of 66 percent (787-of-1,195) for 11,367 yards and 173 touchdowns with 34 interceptions
A completion rate of 72 percent (287-of-399) for 4,269 yards and 67 touchdowns with seven interceptions as a senior, leading Prosser to a 12-1 record and spot in state semifinals
Two games of more than 400 yards passing, 10 of more of more than 300 yards passing, eight touchdown passes in one game, and seven TD throws in three games his senior year
A completion rate of 66 percent (317-of-479) for 4,600 yards and 66 touchdowns with 15 interceptions as a junior
A completion rate of 58 percent (179-of-308) for 2,442 yards and 39 touchdowns with 11 interceptions as a sophomore
As a senior Moore’s honors included Velocity/Prep Star All-America recognition; Washington’s Gatorade Player of the Year award; Player of the Year, first-team all-state, and Division 2A MVP recognition by the Seattle Times; the Associated Press Player of the Year award; and the Yakima Valley Sports Award Male Athlete of Year award.
“You look at production and he was probably the most productive quarterback in the history of Washington [high school] football,” Petersen said. “And then you figure in the intangibles that go with it. We saw those things in Kellen when we were recruiting him.”
Dinwiddie and Zabransky, two star quarterbacks coached by Petersen, both started as sophomores for BSU. The coach was asked if he thought Moore had the same potential as a new starter to attain the heights reached by those two, who finished their careers among the best and most successful signal callers to play for the Broncos.
“He’s as a good as any of them,” the coach replied. “He really is. Now is the fun part. Just go out and play.”