November 6, 2009 in Sports

Bruised Bronco

BSU teammates admire Moore’s toughness
Brian Murphy Idaho Statesman
File Associated Press photo

Boise State’s Kellen Moore leads the nation in pass efficiency, with 24 TD passes and two interceptions. File
(Full-size photo)

Few things on the football field are more nerve-wracking for Boise State fans, coaches and players than the sight of quarterback Kellen Moore struggling to get off the turf after a big hit.

The scene occurred more often than those in blue and orange care to see last week against San Jose State as the 6-foot sophomore Heisman Trophy contender took several shots from defenders.

“It’s scary for you every single time you look back and Kellen’s on the ground,” wide receiver Austin Pettis said. “You always want to run back there and see if he’s all right.”

He was.

Time and again, Moore shook off the teeth-rattling hits, went back into the huddle, called the play and delivered another pass.

Moore is praised plenty for his accuracy, his poise in the pocket, his ability to find the open receiver and his devotion to film study. His numbers – 24 touchdowns against two interceptions, the national leader in pass efficiency – demand attention.

Often overlooked is his toughness.

“He’s got that pretty face and kind of prances around back there, but don’t let the looks deceive you, Kellen is very, very tough,” said coach Chris Petersen, a former quarterback.

The coaching staff saw that toughness in high school when Moore played in a pass-happy offense. It was reinforced during the great quarterback battle of 2008 when the Broncos removed the don’t-hit-me red jerseys from the quarterbacks and let the defense at them.

“The No. 1 thing for us (at that position) is toughness,” said offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin, another former quarterback.

That’s because the job description is unique in sports: You must stand in the pocket and know that 11 guys, including some who you can’t see, are trying to take you out. All the while, you must keep your eyes affixed downfield, looking to make a play and knowing that a 300-pound lineman or a blitzing linebacker might be a step away from crushing you.

Moore added strength in the offseason to better handle the rigors of the position. He is noticeably bigger, especially in the upper body, though no one will confuse the 187-pounder with a body builder.

“He’s going to stay in the pocket and do what’s best for the team. With that, there’s some consequences,” said wide receiver Kirby Moore, Kellen’s younger brother.

The consequences have been damning for several Top 25 programs. Oklahoma lost quarterback Sam Bradford for most of the season after injuring his shoulder against BYU. Florida’s Tim Tebow suffered a concussion when a defender drilled him and his head hit a teammate’s knee on his way to the ground.

Kellen Moore means just as much to the Broncos as those quarterbacks do to their programs, the main reason for the squeamish looks on the faces of fans, coaches and players when he was struggled to his feet against San Jose State.

The Broncos have done a good job keeping their standout QB from taking too many shots.

Boise State has allowed five sacks this season, the fewest in the WAC.

“We always give Kellen a hard time. ‘You better not be acting sore because you never get touched,’ ” tight end Tommy Gallarda said.

Film sessions tell a different story. Moore’s willingness to stay in the pocket and take the hit gives him much credibility among teammates, who note that he has not missed a workout during his time with the Broncos.

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