RENO — The last time Boise State clinched a WAC title in Nevada, the fans rushed the field, tossed Tostitos chips in the air and carried tailback Ian Johnson off the field.
Saturday's 41-34 victory against the Wolf Pack generated similar excitement among the thousands of orange-clad Boise State fans at Mackay Stadium.
But it lacked the same passionbecause, unlike 2006, the undefeated Broncos don't control their Bowl Championship Series fate.
The game did, however, answer whatever questions remained about the quarterback who will guide Boise State to its next BCS game. It won't be this season, but freshman Kellen Moore will guide the Broncos to college football's promised land before his career is over.
Too bad, given the setting, there isn't a prop bet on that sort of thing.
Each week, through circumstance and situation, Moore unveils another trait that might make him the greatest quarterback in Boise State history before his eligibility expires.
He's already amassed the best freshman season for a Bronco signal-caller - and there is little reason to suspect the film-room junkie won't continue to get better.
Moore, who may have secured the league's first-team quarterback and Offensive Player of the Year honors with his performance to go along with his no-doubt-about-it selection as the league's Freshman of the Year, displayed a few more traits of greatness Saturday.
"He's got everything in that little left arm of his," said Johnson, perhaps the only player to reach the same status that Moore is approaching among Boise State fans.
It is not simply in his left arm. It is in his head and, increasingly as we gather more glimpses, his heart, his toughness and his character.
With the Broncos' running game little more than a curiosity, Moore set season highs in completions (29), attempts (48) and yards (414). He also set a season high in interceptions with three (two returned for touchdowns) and, unofficially, times knocked on his backside.
At times, the slightly built lefty looked as if he were soon to be embedded into the Mackay Stadium turf.
Each time he shook off the shot - and started throwing again. There could have been some hesitance after three passes in eight attempts were picked off, two off deflections.
"I owe you guys one," Moore told Johnson and the rest of the Broncos' offense at some point in his disastrous three-interception third quarter that led directly to 14 points.
That's as close as Moore came to flinching. He got back under center and kept chucking, kept taking hits and never hung his head.
Good quarterbacks can put up splendid numbers when things are going well. Great ones find a way to do it when things aren't going well, when you've brought the other team back into the game and gotten knocked around like a pinata.
"To be able to take shots like that and rally back, that says a lot about his character and how he is as a quarterback," offensive coordinator Bryan Harsin said.
We've long known about Moore's calm demeanor - it is one of the main reasons he won the quarterback job in the first place. But this was one of the rare times that cool was truly tested in the cauldron of a hostile crowd with the game on the line on each of his pass attempts in the second half and an outright WAC championship on the line to boot.
"Really, he hadn't been in a situation like that until tonight and he answered the questions that we had. Is he going to bounce back like we think he is?" Harsin said. "He did. He really did. I was proud of him for that."
Moore, who acknowledged only bumps and bruises from his tough afternoon, said the last time he threw three picks in one game was in high school. Maybe. A quarterback, after all, must have the mind of a baseball closer -never remembering the saves he's blown.
"You take the good and you take the bad with it," said Moore, channeling his inner "Facts of Life." "Just even-keel it. Watch some film. I know I screwed up a few, but I made some decent plays."
That's the reason Harsin and coach Chris Petersen love the guy. Oh, and he's going to win them a heck of a lot of football games by the time his Bronco career is over.
Brian Murphy: 377-6444