Slowing down Boise State’s talented signal-caller a top priority for Dogs

On a November Saturday in 1998, then-Michigan State defensive line coach Todd Grantham saw an opposing quarterback rally his team in the fourth quarter with two touchdown passes for a 25-24 road victory.

Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore will present a stiff challenge for Georgia’s defense Saturday night in Atlanta.
File / AP

Grantham, now Georgia’s second-year defensive coordinator, sees similarities between that quarterback and Boise State’s Kellen Moore, who will go up against Georgia on Saturday night in Atlanta.

“(He’s) one of the few quarterbacks I’ve seen in college that really knows where to throw the ball before he gets it,” said Grantham. “Reminds me a lot of Drew Brees when he was at Purdue. He can make the throws. He knows what play to get them in. They do run an NFL-style passing attack and he’s really good at it and he knows how to throw it.”

Moore’s left arm and presence in the pocket have helped carry Boise State to a 38-2 record during his three seasons, which included a trip to New York last December as a Heisman Trophy finalist.

Not bad considering Moore wasn’t highly recruited (No. 31 pro-style quarterback by Rivals.com) out of Prosser (Wash.) High. He chose Boise State over Eastern Washington and Idaho.

He is the nation’s active career leader in passing efficiency (166.74) and needs eight more wins to top former Texas quarterback Colt McCoy as the all-time winningest quarterback in Football Bowl Subdivision history.

“He’s very smart and obviously understands our system very well,” Boise State coach Chris Petersen said. “He’s also one of those guys who just feels the game well. We always say: If everyone around him will do their job, Kellen is going to play at a high level. That’s key — to make that quarterback look good, you’ve got to do your job.”

The 6-foot, 191-pound redshirt senior threw at least two touchdowns in every game last season when he tossed 35 touchdowns with just six interceptions and led the nation with a 182.63 efficiency rating. He completed 71.3 percent of his throws.

“This guy right now I would say is deadly accurate,” Georgia coach Mark Richt said. “There’s a difference between completions and hitting a guy on the dead run and hitting a guy exactly where he needs to be hit. He throws it so accurately that he allows his receivers to really get some good yards after the catch.”

“Just from what we’ve seen on film, he’s probably the most accurate passer that I’ve seen,” said Georgia redshirt sophomore cornerback Jordan Love. “Coach (Scott) Lakatos really stresses that that you have to be on top of your guy because a lot of times if you’re trailing him, he’ll put the ball on him. That’s what I’ve seen on film. He’ll drop the ball right over the DBs head into the receiver’s arm. He’s really accurate.”

So what can Georgia do to slow Moore and the No. 5 Broncos down?

“He won’t hold the ball long in the pocket,” safety Sanders Commings said. “Three seconds and if we’re not there, he’s getting the ball off. One thing we have to do is put pressure on him and get there quick.”

Inside linebacker Christian Robinson said Moore knows where’s he’s going with the ball at the beginning of his progression.

“We’re just hoping that we can get in those lanes and stop those passes,” Robinson said.

Those passes, Grantham said, rely heavily on timing.

“There’s guys in certain spots and he doesn’t always have to be looking at the guy to throw it,” Grantham said. “He can be looking here, but throw it back there. He kind of knows where those guys are going to be. I can’t say I’ve seen another guy like him since I’ve been here like that. He’s good at what he does and he knows their offense.”

Georgia scout-team quarterback Michael Tamburo knows a bit about their offense and Moore, too. He joined the program this summer after transferring from Boise State after two years as a reserve.

Tamburo is simulating Moore in practice to prep the defense.

He calls Moore ” a big mentor,” and even roomed with his brother, Kirby, a Boise State receiver.

“There’s not many things he doesn’t do well, to be honest,” Tamburo said. “He’s a great quarterback, a great leader. This will be interesting.”

“He’s at the top of his game,” Robinson said. “I hope that we can slow him down and do our part on Saturday.”

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