One was the 2007 WAC Freshman of the Year. The other is likely the 2008 WAC Freshman of the Year. One bedevils opponents with his legs. The other dissects them with his mind. One is the WAC's leading scorer. The other is the WAC's most efficient passer. Nevada's Colin Kaepernick and Boise State's Kellen Moore - the WAC's top two quarterbacks - begin what should be a three-year rivalry Saturday afternoon in Reno. Their competition will spill over into All-WAC voting. Who's your pick?
MOORE: PASSING FANCY
None of Boise State quarterback Kellen Moore's split-second decisions, laser-accurate throws, touchdown passes or wins carried as much weight in the Boise State locker room as a non-play last week at Idaho.
On a play that was blown dead at the snap, an Idaho defender kept playing and drove Moore into the turf. Moore got up shoving - sparking a heated exchange between the two teams. Boise State coach Chris Petersen didn't like it. He was afraid of a penalty.
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Players - who have marveled all year at Moore's cool demeanor - loved it. The joke for most of the year was that someone needed to make sure Moore was breathing, that his heart was actually beating, because he never got rattled.
"That was the biggest moment for us looking at Kellen," senior tailback Ian Johnson said. "It's like, 'Wow, he's got a heart. There's a limit to how much he'll take before he gives it back.' "
Moore's poise under fire might be the biggest reason that the redshirt freshman has been the WAC's best passer. He almost certainly will be named the Freshman of the Year and he is the top challenger to Nevada dual threat Colin Kaepernick for the All-WAC first-team honor that hasn't gone to a Bronco since Ryan Dinwiddie in 2003.
Moore led the Broncos to victory at Oregon. He bounced back from a sloppy performance at Southern Miss. He overcame San Jose State's fierce pass rush and picked apart New Mexico State's befuddling scheme. And he didn't flinch when he lost two of his favorite targets, tight end Chris O'Neill (foot) and receiver Titus Young (suspension).
He did it all while completing at least 63 percent of his passes in every game - he's at 71.2 on the year - and never throwing more than one interception.
"He does a good job preparing himself. I think he plays confident because of that,'' offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said.
Confident but, as advertised, never cocky.
"He might be a little more confident, which is good, but I don't think he's getting any arrogance to him," freshman tight end and roommate Kyle Efaw said.
Coaches say Moore is playing the type of football they expected. The one thing coaches didn't know for sure was how he would take a hit. That was answered at Oregon, when Moore threw a perfectly timed strike to Jeremy Childs while absorbing a huge hit to the midsection.
And if there was any remaining doubt about his toughness, Moore wiped it away with his actions at Idaho.
"I know he's tough," Petersen said. "He doesn't need to start fights to show he's tough."
KAEPERNICK: RUNNING WILD
Boise State's high school camp was loaded with quarterback talent in the summer of 2005. Mike Coughlin (signed with Boise State). Cody Hawkins (committed to Boise State, signed with Colorado). Kevin Riley (signed with California).
And, perhaps the most accomplished of the bunch, Colin Kaepernick.
The 2007 WAC Freshman of the Year and the front-runner for the 2008 WAC Offensive Player of the Year award is the key reason Nevada is considered a threat to derail the No. 9 Broncos on Saturday afternoon at Mackay Stadium.
He is about to become the fifth player in Football Bowl Subdivision history to rush for 1,000 yards and throw for 2,000 yards in the same season, according to Nevada. He has an outside chance to break the FBS record for single-season rushing yards by a quarterback.
"He's a unique guy," said BSU coach Chris Petersen, who didn't pursue Kaepernick because Coughlin and Hawkins were early commits. "He's playing in a really good offense for him. They're highlighting his strengths."
Kaepernick is a dynamic runner with a fireballer's arm who lacks polish as a passer. He operates a read-option running attack that has made the Wolf Pack the nation's top running team and uses play action to hit the big play in the passing game.
His lack of accuracy - he completes just 57.8 percent of his passes - is less of a factor than it would be in a precision passing system like BSU's offense.
"I don't think there are many players who can do what (Kaepernick) does," San Jose State coach Dick Tomey said.
On most running plays, Kaepernick must make a decision - hand off to the running back or keep the ball and try to beat the defense outside. Sometimes he also has the option of a pitch man; sometimes he fakes the run and throws downfield.
It's a simple system, but it requires superior instincts. Kaepernick's decision making must be crisp as he reacts to the actions of the defensive ends and outside linebackers.
Kaepernick averages 8.3 yards per carry, and running back Vai Taua averages 7.3. Last year, those averages were 5.6 for Kaepernick and 5.3 for running back Luke Lippincott.
Kaepernick burst onto the scene last year against Boise State in his first college start. He rushed for 177 yards and two touchdowns and passed for 243 yards and three touchdowns in the Pack's 69-67, four-OT loss.
"We're definitely going to be a lot more prepared this time," Boise State sophomore defensive end Ryan Winterswyk said. "We know what their quarterback's capable of."