Boise State returning focus to Utah
The Associated Press
BOISE, Idaho -- In between trips to Florida and New York and walking in graduation ceremonies, Boise State's Kellen Moore is trying to squeeze in a little football. It's been that kind of month for the Broncos' star quarterback, where getting ready for the Las Vegas Bowl against No. 20 Utah almost seems like an afterthought.
"Now, we can just focus on the game and there are no awards to worry about,'' he said. "It's nice. It simplifies your life.''
The 10th-ranked Broncos left Saturday for Las Vegas and their Wednesday night matchup against the Utes, a meeting that makes up for Utah's move to the Pac-12 starting next season, which forced the cancellation of two scheduled games against the Broncos.
And after a hectic couple of weeks for the Broncos -- and no one more than Moore -- the focus is back on football. "I do feel pressure to finish this season off with a win,'' head coach Chris Petersen said. "I feel like it's important to win a bowl game and they've got a magic formula on how to get that done. Our challenge has gotten greater. I think it's really important to finish this season off like we want to.''
Just 48 hours after Moore and the Broncos closed out the regular season with a win against Utah State, Moore. a junior, was named a Heisman Trophy finalist and invited to New York for the award presentation. That trip was added to the backend of his trip to Florida for an awards show and sandwiched into an already crazy schedule that included taking finals and getting ready for graduation ceremonies that took place on Friday.
Boise State didn't hold its first full team practice with specific regard for the Utes until Thursday night, six days before the game. The Broncos are somewhat use to the schedule, having played in the Poinsettia Bowl two years ago against TCU in a game played before Christmas.
But that year, the Broncos were done with the regular season on Nov. 28.
"It's different because it's one of those early bowl games and we played into December,'' Moore said. "This year, we really only had one weekend and then we're getting into it. We didn't have time to add more practices in there.''
While Moore was shuttled up and down the East Coast and paraded before the national media as part of Cam Newton's crowning as the Heisman winner, his teammates back in Boise were getting a good laugh at seeing their quarterback being forced out of his normal, laid-back element. "It was real funny because you know Kellen, and Kellen is not that type of guy at all,'' receiver Austin Pettis said. "He doesn't want to be in the spotlight and he's getting all this recognition and he's really just about the team and winning games.''
Moore finished fourth in the Heisman voting, but the experience was one he relished. Moore heads into the bowl game against the Utes with 3,506 yards passing, 33 touchdowns and only five interceptions. While he doesn't lead the country in any one category, Moore ranks in the top 10 in six different statistical areas.
"When you're at the Heisman ceremony, you meet all the former winners. They're a lot of those guys you get to meet and you grew up watching them and then you get to meet then. It's a lot of fun,'' Moore said.
Playing in Las Vegas, as opposed to the Fight Hunger Bowl in San Francisco on Jan. 9, was clearly the preferred option for the Broncos. While they miss a chance to face a team from a BCS conference -- Nevada is playing Boston College -- the Broncos get a ranked opponent and give many of their seniors a chance to rest up before moving on to the postseason showcase games.
Receivers Titus Young and Pettis, defensive backs Brandyn Thompson, Jeron Johnson and Winston Venable, and defensive end Ryan Winterswyk likely are bound for some type of postseason showcase. This year could become the Broncos' largest draft class, another sign of the progress they've have made in becoming a national program.
Boise State had four players -- defensive back Gerald Alexander, wide receiver Legedu Naanee, fullback Korey Hall and tight end Derek Schouman -- drafted in 2007.
"It's going to be very beneficial for a lot of our seniors,'' Pettis said. "It gives you that much more time to train and more importantly a chance to relax and take a little time off and let your body heal up and be able to train real hard.
"It will benefit a lot of guys, and we got a better game location, opponent and timing -- all three.''