Kirby Moore knew he was likely going to get into coaching when his playing days at Boise State were over.
But something happened four years ago at Fresno State that cemented that idea.
Moore, then a senior wide receiver for the Broncos, injured a foot Sept. 20, 2013, at Bulldog Stadium, forcing him to miss the next six games. For those games, he helped the staff prepare and put on a headset to listen to the coaches’ communication.
“The minute I started doing that, it just felt right,” Moore said. “It’s kind of weird to think of it, but that’s how the journey started.”
Weird, indeed, considering that Moore is now in his first season as not the Broncos’ wide receivers coach, but the Bulldogs’.
After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant at Washington under former Boise State coach Chris Petersen, Moore was given his first full-time FBS assistant job last December.
Fresno State coach Jeff Tedford was an offensive consultant last season for the Huskies, and he brought Moore with him. The two worked together a bit in Seattle but not necessarily on a daily basis.
Moore knew he would be coaching against his alma mater.
“It’s pretty surreal,” Moore said of facing the Broncos. “I wasn’t anticipating getting the job at all. It was definitely surprising. I didn’t take too long to say yes.”
Coaching runs in Moore’s blood — his father, Tom, won four state titles as head coach at Prosser (Wash.) High. And of course, there’s his famously wise brother, Kellen, who was 50-3 as Boise State’s quarterback and is currently on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad.
In his Boise State career, Kirby had 115 catches for 1,137 yards with six touchdowns in 2009 and 2011-13.
“Football was in their family. It’s not a surprise he’s doing well,” Boise State coach Bryan Harsin said. “He’s extremely intelligent, he works really hard, he’s always done that. ... The thing about Kirby, he was smart enough to listen, to pay attention, watch and take it all in and know, ‘Someday down the road, this is probably going to pay off.’ ”
Moore’s first coaching job was with the receivers at College of Idaho in 2014. He had been working in medical sales when his former roommate, Dustin Kamper, was set to join the Yotes’ staff as linebackers coach and said there was a vacancy at Moore’s old playing position. Moore jumped at the chance to coach the Caldwell school’s first team since 1977.
“There was some trial and error, but to get that experience, having your group of guys, seeing how it all works, that was really huge,” Moore said.
Fresno State junior wide receiver KeeSean Johnson said when Moore was hired, redshirt senior Da’Mari Scott made sure to note he played against Moore in that 2013 game. Moore’s youth, Johnson said, has helped him relate well to his players.
“He brought a lot of good technique, helped us with route-running,” Johnson said. “His knowledge of the game is crazy.”
Johnson (58) and Scott (48) are tied for third and eighth, respectively, in the Mountain West in receptions. No. 3 receiver Jamire Jordan is averaging 24.9 yards on 15 catches.
“Kirby’s done a great job. Those guys are playing well,” Boise State defensive coordinator Andy Avalos said.
Harsin and Avalos played at Boise State, too. So did Fresno State graduate assistant D.J. Harper. On Monday, Harsin said “our goal is to have Broncos out there running the country.”
Moore is glad to be part of that coaching tree.
“I just love the Xs and Os, talking ball, playing it,” Moore said. “I was surrounded by those sorts of people at Boise State. It’s cool to have so many guys to talk to out there coaching. It can help a little when maybe they can tell you something about someone you’re going to be playing that they’ve gone up against.”
Fresno State at a glance
Location: Fresno, Calif.
Head coach: Jeff Tedford (8-3, first season; 90-60 overall in 12 college seasons)
This year: 8-3 overall, 6-1 Mountain West; won 13-7 at Wyoming last Saturday
Fresno State’s turnaround has been one of the best in college football, from 1-11 last season to the West Division champion. The Bulldogs are tied for 10th nationally (along with Boise State), having allowed only 10 turnovers. It’s a balanced offense with three running backs with 444 to 542 yards and two receivers with 48 and 58 receptions. The Bulldogs are averaging a modest 27.7 points per game but have allowed only seven sacks.
The Bulldogs’ defense has been excellent, leading the conference and ranking No. 12 in the FBS with 17.3 ppg and 307.5 yards per game allowed. The 4-3 base doesn’t have one huge playmaker but a lot of solid parts, with seven players having at least two sacks but none with more than five. The Bulldogs are No. 16 in rush defense (118.2 ypg) and No. 22 in pass defense (189.3 ypg). Their 11 fumble recoveries are tied for 10th-most in the FBS.
PLAYER TO WATCH
Marcus McMaryion, QB: A 6-foot-2, 195-pound junior, he transferred to Fresno State from Oregon State in August, then took over the starting job in late September. He’s 8-1 at the helm and is 146-of-233 passing for 1,880 yards with 12 TDs and three interceptions. He also has 192 rushing yards.
“He can scramble when the defense gives him the opportunity, and he has good touch on the ball as well,” Boise State linebacker Gabe Perez said.
Boise State at Fresno State
When: 1:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Bulldog Stadium (41,031, FieldTurf)
TV: CBS Sports Network (Rich Waltz, Jay Feely, Jenny Dell)
Radio: KBOI 670 AM/KTIK 93.1 FM (Bob Behler, Pete Cavender)
Records: BSU 9-2, 7-0 (beat Air Force 44-19 last week); Fresno State 8-3, 6-1 (beat Wyoming 13-7 last week)
Series: Boise State leads 13-5 (Broncos won 28-14 in Boise on Dec. 6, 2014, in last meeting)
Vegas line: Boise State by 7
Kickoff weather: Low 70s, partly cloudy