Kellen Moore?s Boise State career had ended just 20 minutes earlier, which was way too soon for Chris Petersen to consider what life would be like without his program?s greatest player.
?I have no idea what we?re going to do without Kellen Moore, so don?t ask,? Petersen said to open his post-MAACO Bowl Las Vegas press conference.
Petersen and the rest of the Boise State program will have to figure it out soon enough. Moore ? 50-3 as a starter over the past four seasons ? departs as the winningest quarterback in FBS history and the indisputable face of the program.
Let?s start with this: Replacing him will be impossible. His icon status is cemented forever. But someone will have to take snaps for the Broncos in 2012 and beyond ? and fend off the inevitable Moore comparisons.
?It?s going to be hard because he set the bar so high,? offensive coordinator Brent Pease said.
Recent college football history suggests it may be more difficult than that. Florida hasn?t been the same since Tim Tebow left. Texas has struggled without Colt McCoy. Auburn went from national champion to 7-5 in its first season without Cam Newton. Each of those talented quarterbacks reshaped the way the program played offense ? making up for other problems with their stellar abilities.
The Broncos are hoping to avoid a similar swoon without Moore under center. Four quarterbacks ? junior Joe Southwick, sophomore Grant Hedrick, freshman Jimmy Laughrea and incoming freshman Nick Patti ? are expected to compete for the starting job. None are expected to be the next Kellen Moore.
?What we expect them to do is run our offense in the most efficient, most productive manner possible,? Petersen said. ?It?ll look different down the road.?
All of his potential replacements are better runners than Moore was, an indication that the Broncos? offense could look more like it did under former quarterback Jared Zabransky than it has the past four years under Moore, the ultimate pocket passer. In limited action, Southwick showed an ability to generate offense with his legs. Hedrick carved out a role this season as an option/wildcat quarterback.
?We?ve got to be smart as coaches. We?re not going to run everything Kellen ran. We have to do what they?re good at,? Pease said.
While Moore dazzled fans and impressed coaches, he was also leaving behind a legacy of off-field dedication that the other quarterbacks absorbed. That preparation, perhaps more than even his number of victories, is the legacy that Moore will leave behind to whoever takes his spot in the starting lineup.
?He left this place a lot better than when he showed up,? Southwick said. ?The important thing is to look at how it came and that?s the process you have to go through. It doesn?t just happen on Saturday. It?s the other days of the week. He?s definitely left that quality with the quarterbacks. Now it?s our turn to go out there and prepare and do the same thing.
?? I?ve been very, very fortunate to be around him the last three seasons. Just being around him, you pick up a lot and I can?t wait to hopefully demonstrate some of that.?
Southwick and the other quarterbacks will finally get that chance. To prove what they can do. To show what they have learned. To demonstrate that the program will not end with Moore?s departure. While Moore stockpiled records and victories, the other QBs waited. They are eager to play.
?They came to Boise because they?re very talented quarterbacks and Coach Pete recognized that. Those guys would probably be playing very early in their careers at a lot of other spots,? Moore said.
Thanks to the super-talented No. 11, they didn?t get the chance.
Now, as the Broncos begin to figure out what they?re going to do without Moore, it?ll be up to one of them to handle the position, to begin a new chapter in Boise State history, to do the impossible and take over for Kellen Moore.