Kellen Moore was nobody coming out of high school in the spring of 2007. He was a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, a middling quarterback prospect from Prosser, Wash., who only got three scholarship offers, and two of those were from Eastern Washington and Idaho. But Moore, whose collegiate career ended late last night in the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona State, will head off to the NFL as one of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play college football.
Kellen Moore was nobody coming out of high school in the spring of 2007.
He was a three-star recruit, according to Rivals.com, a middling quarterback prospect from Prosser, Wash., who only got three scholarship offers, and two of those were from Eastern Washington and Idaho. He was 6 feet tall and weighed less than 180 pounds. He committed to Boise State, where he figured to languish in obscurity on a team that had a fun moment with a Fiesta Bowl win over Oklahoma to cap the 2006 season but was bound to fall back to Earth.
Nothing further than the expected could have happened for Moore, and for the Broncos.
Moore, whose collegiate career ended late last night in the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona State, will head off to the NFL as one of the most successful quarterbacks to ever play college football. And Boise State, meanwhile, has become a consistent power, a threat every season to go undefeated and perhaps one day play for the national championship.
After redshirting in the fall of 2007, Moore became Boise State’s starting quarterback in 2008, embarking on a remarkable career.
After throwing for 3,486 yards and 25 touchdowns as a redshirt freshman – but with 10 interceptions – when the Broncos went 12-1, Moore’s career took off the next year.
He threw for 3,586 yards as a sophomore – not a whole lot more than as a freshman – but his TD passes leaped to 39 and he threw just three interceptions.
Ultimately, heading into last night’s game, Moore threw for 14,374 yards with 140 touchdown passes and just 26 interceptions. He completed 69.6 percent of his passes, and never once had a quarterback rating less than 157.1.
The yardage ranks him fourth all-time. The TD passes rank him second all-time.
But those are all individual stats, numbers a quarterback engaged in weekly shootouts might put together, or ones a QB whose team throws 50 times per game might compile.
That’s not how Moore did it.
Moore did it with efficiency. Moore did it while his team still ran the ball. Moore did it by leading his team to victory, often by huge margins.
In fact, what Moore did better than any quarterback in the history of college football was win. He had led Boise State to 49 victories heading into last night’s game, already four more than the previous record held by Texas’ Colt McCoy.
And the Broncos had lost just three games with Moore at quarterback.
“It’s great. Kellen is a winner,” an understated Boise State coach Chris Petersen said the night Moore set the mark for career wins, before adding, “A lot of guys around here are winners.”
As unlikely as the rise of a middling prospect who didn’t get a single scholarship from a BCS school is, so too is the concurrent rise of Boise State from miracle winner over Oklahoma in that Fiesta Bowl – when it took both a Statue of Liberty and hook-and-lateral for the Broncos to knock off the Sooners – to national power and consistent contender for berths in BCS bowls.
The Broncos were good before Moore arrived. They posted consecutive one-loss seasons from 2002 through 2004, for example. But back then they couldn’t beat the big-name teams on their schedule, with the loss in 2002 to Arkansas, the one in ’03 to Oregon State and the one in ’04 to Louisville.
There was a slip in 2005 to three losses before the they announced their presence with that seminal win over Oklahoma.
There was another slip to three losses in 2007, but then Moore became the starter and Boise State went to the next level, beating not merely the little guys but the big ones as well, every year.
There was 12-1 in 2008 with a win over Oregon (the loss was to TCU in the Fiesta Bowl). There was 14-0 in 2009 with another win over Oregon, and this time a win over TCU in the Fiesta Bowl. There was 12-1 last year with wins over Virginia Tech and Oregon State. And this year the team was 11-1 heading into last night, with a win over Georgia and potentially another over Arizona State.
And while Boise State is disappointed to be relegated to playing in the Las Vegas Bowl against Arizona State - Petersen openly criticized the BCS the day after the bowl schedule was announced because, of course, his team deserved inclusion but was passed over - the Sun Devils are the ones who are excited to have a shot to knock off a name opponent.
“We are thrilled to be able to play in a bowl game for our fans against a team like Boise State,” said Arizona State junior quarterback Brock Osweiler.
Senior defensive tackle Bo Moos echoed, “One last chance to play on national TV against a ranked opponent, that is why you play this game.”
They’re quotes that might have come from Boise State players a handful of years ago.
The quarterback and the team have done something truly remarkable over the last four years. They’ve risen together from middling to elite, obscurity to center stage.
What We Learned
Last night’s Las Vegas Bowl provided a stark contrast.
On one side was Moore, who represents a lot of what’s wonderful about college football. He’s a player who made himself into something out of seemingly nothing, turning a career that was destined to be forgettable into something memorable.
On the other side was Todd Graham.
Graham didn’t coach Arizona State last night, but he is Arizona State’s coach, hired last week to take over for Dennis Erickson, who was fired after the regular season but still coached the Sun Devils one final time against the Broncos.
Graham is at best an opportunist.
Graham was the coach at Pitt this season, and it’s hard to begrudge a man a chance at upward mobility – even in a realm (college athletics) where the athletes aren’t permitted the same freedom. Coaches, like anyone in any profession, have every right to find and seek a better job.
Sometimes, however, there’s sleaziness that comes with that quest, and what Graham has done to get to Arizona State smacks of just that.
For starters, Graham spent all of 11 months at Pitt.
Things like that happen, and can be OK. Matt Doherty, the coach of the Notre Dame men’s basketball team in 1999-00 left after just one season despite professing his love for the Fighting Irish, but that was to take over at North Carolina, his dream job, the place where he was a player for Dean Smith and played alongside James Worthy and Michael Jordan when the Tar Heels won the national championship in 1982.
They don’t happen the way Graham did it and be OK.
When he took the job at Pitt he said, “I’ve spent my whole life working to get this job. Our goal is to win championships.”
When three assistant coaches recently bolted on him to become assistants for Rich Rodriguez at Arizona, Graham called them “mercenaries.”
The true mercenary is Graham, who after agreeing to leave Pitt for Arizona State told his team of the move via text message. Classy.
It wasn’t all that different than the first time he changed head coaching jobs.
Graham coached Rice in 2006, and after the Owls went 7-6 he was given a contract extension. Instead of honoring that contract, just days later he bolted for Tulsa after reportedly leveraging the new contract at Rice for more money.
Like this year, back in ’06 Graham was one year and done for a better gig, with a classless exit.
“It’s such an honor for me to be sitting here and taking over the program that the legend Frank Kush built,” Graham said Dec. 14 when he was introduced as the new coach at Arizona State. “I can’t tell you how humbling that is for me. I’m a traditionalist, have a tremendous respect for this game. I have a tremendous respect for the past and for what he did as a coach here. ... I’m hoping that I can accomplish half of what he’s done and we’ll be doing great.”
Don’t believe a word.
He’s not a traditionalist. He’s an opportunist. His respect isn’t for the game but for the almighty dollar.
Boise State made a great decision back when it put its offense in the hands of Kellen Moore four years ago. Arizona State made a bizarre - and perhaps stupid - decision when it put its entire football team in the hands of Todd Graham last week.
How fitting that the two teams met last night.
Game of the Week
The great ones come in the new year.
There are a couple of good ones on Dec. 29, when Florida State and Notre Dame play in the Champs Sports Bowl before Washington and Baylor play in the Alamo Bowl, but instead of going on about those two decent but not spectacular games, a few more words on what we learned over the last week.
We learned that Ohio State’s self-imposed punishments for violations that first surfaced just over a year ago involving players taking cash in exchange for memorabilia weren’t enough to satisfy the NCAA. The Buckeyes volunteered to vacate all wins from 2010, return money from its Sugar Bowl appearance and reduce the number of scholarships it can give by five over the next three years.
The NCAA levied its punishments on Tuesday, banning Ohio State from bowl participation next season, adding to the reduction of scholarships through 2015, and putting the Buckeyes on probation for three years.
It’s not a horrific penalty, but Ohio State’s transgressions weren’t horrific. The school reportedly cooperated with the investigation, and former coach Jim Tressel, who covered up rather than inform when he was tipped off to what was going on, was gone last spring.
The bowl ban, however, will hurt on the recruiting front, as of course will the reduction in scholarships.
“It is still my goal to hire excellent coaches, recruit great student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and to win on and off the field,” new coach Urban Meyer said in a statement when the sanctions were announced. “The NCAA penalties will serve as a reminder that the college experience does not include the behavior that led to these penalties.”
We also learned over the last week that Georgia coach Mark Richt is one of the good guys.
Richt was reprimanded by Georgia for violations of NCAA rules because ... he paid football staff out of his own pocket whom he felt were underpaid, fell just short of qualifying for bonuses or simply needed some help.
He paid out a total of about $57,000 to coaches and other staff members going back to 2008.
Among the payments, according to the school’s investigation, were $6,000 to fired defensive ends coach John Fabris in 2010 when Fabris couldn’t find a new job before his severance package expired.
Thankfully the NCAA is wise enough to consider Richt’s “transgressions” minor and there will be no punishment. More thankfully, there are guys like Mark Richt in college football who actually care about people.
Take note, Todd Graham.
My Top 10
1. LSU (13-0)
2. Oklahoma State (11-1)
3. Alabama (11-1)
4. Stanford (11-1)
5. USC (9-2)
6. Oregon (10-2)
7. Arkansas (10-2)
8. Wisconsin (10-2)
9. Boise State (11-1, not including last night’s game)
10. South Carolina (10-2)
Contact Eric Avidon at 508-626-3809 or firstname.lastname@example.org.