LAS VEGAS, Nev. — Kellen Moore, 50 wins in and through with the college game, is as practiced at the craft of the postgame presser as he is in the pocket. With his NCAA career wrapped, and no threat of forced running of stadium steps lurking over his shoulder, Moore had not one unkind word to say about the situation Boise State’s football team found itself in Thursday night after a 56-24 rout of Arizona State in the MAACO Bowl Las Vegas. [RECAP | BOX] The No. 8 Broncos put a flourishing touch on the winningest four-year streak in FBS history in a December game. An early December game. Again. You know this — but you’d never know it looking at or listening to Kellen Moore.
When asked about his impact on the Boise State football program, Moore speaks only of being fortunate — that’s his keyword. “Fortunate” to have been put in the situation he was in, to be “surrounded by great people.”
“It’s a neat experience,” said the all-time winningest quarterback in FBS college football history. Since Moore toes the straight and narrow, let’s let the two coaches of the 2011 Las Vegas Bowl throw some well-deserved handfuls of glitter his way.
Dennis Erickson: “His anticipation, he made a couple throws where he threw that football, and the receiver hadn’t even come close to coming out of his break. So he breaks, and boom! The ball is there. You can’t defend that.”
Chris Petersen, settling himself in, before the first question is even voiced: “I have no idea what we’re gonna do without Kellen Moore, so don’t ask it.”
That anticipation Erickson speaks of has been a particular quality of Boise State ball this season. This is not a team that’s looked clunky often over the past couple dozen games, but beginning with September’s kickoff game against Georgia, it was difficult to even see moving parts. It was clear the Broncos had leveled up for 2011, lighting up the scoreboard apparently without conscious thought, as though touchdown production was simply their natural occupation.
Tonight, abetted by a miserable Arizona State squad, the Broncos hit a point total they bettered only against Fresno State and Colorado State in 2011. They broke the end zone plane by nearly every possible means — offensively, defensively and on special teams — in a scoring flurry bookended on both ends by game MVP Doug Martin. Back for kick return duty for the first time since early October, Boise’s star running back housed the opening kickoff for a 100-yard score and a 7-0 lead, and punched in a two-yard scoring run with less than three minutes remaining in the game for the Broncos’ eighth and final touchdown of the night. (Martin, by the way, isn’t quite so decorous in expressing his feelings concerning this year’s Boise-less Sugar Bowl matchup. Asked if tonight stood in for beating Michigan, he chuckled: “I would like to think so, yes.”)
For his part, Coach Petersen doesn’t think either one of his brightest stars made tonight’s play of the game. He gives that nod to Jamar Taylor, whose 100-yard interception return (that’s right, three scores tonight of 98 yards or longer) turned around what had been a relatively sputtering third quarter for the Broncos and snuffed out the vast majority of the fight in ASU.
It would be a hard loss for the Sun Devils even if they weren’t marking the end of an epoch themselves. Erickson is the headline departure, but an obviously gutted Brock Osweiler choked up visibly when asked about his relationship with his departing offensive coordinator, Noel Mazzone: “You know, it’s been everything.” The next time Osweiler, a junior, will see his coach on a football field again will be in 2012, in a Pac-12 rivalry game with UCLA, and Mazzone will be wearing blue.
Erickson could have been speaking in literal terms of the game itself or of the Sun Devils’ late-season implosion as he mused, “Things kinda went backward here on us.” He won’t rule out coaching again (“I don’t know that it’s it for me”), but does have one promise: “I won’t become a math teacher. I promise you.” From the far side of the room, a penetrating question came: Is Erickson disappointed? All of a sudden, Erickson is Erickson again: “My mother asked me that question, too. She’s 87.” As deflated as he’s seemed over the past month, all of a sudden it’s much easier to picture the crusty lifer making another run at relevance, somewhere else with some other squad.
For all we know, it’s sunset for the Broncos dynasty as well now that Moore is gone. But Erickson’s Las Vegas opponent has a similarly acerbic take on the cyclical nature of the game. Is this, clutch those pearls, twilight for Boise State? Petersen practically snorts: “No.”