By Ryan Divish The News Tribune
They don’t exactly hail from hotbeds of football talent.
While college coaches scour Southern California, the Bay Area and the Dallas-Fort Worth metro-plex in search of receiving talent, Boise State didn’t travel far to find its top two receivers in a pair of towns where the combined populations wouldn’t even fill Husky Stadium.
The Broncos play Washington Saturday in the Las Vegas Bowl. The game starts at 12:30 p.m.
Yep, Prosser, the hometown of Kirby Moore, checks in with just under 6,000 people residing in the sleepy Eastern Washington town in the Yakima Valley. Meanwhile, Helena, Montana, the hometown of Matt Miller, is a metropolis by comparison. Nestled in the Rocky Mountains and near the Missouri River’s best fly fishing, the state capital boasts a population of just over 28,000 people.
But don’t let their small-town backgrounds mislead you, they are big-time receiving threats in a Boise State offense that is finally starting to figure out life after the departure of the greatest player in program history.
The list of Montana natives playing for Football Bowl Subdivision schools is pretty slim. The state produces one or two players that reach that level each year with the bulk of the players ending up at Football Championship Subdivision powers Montana and Montana State.
But Miller always seemed destined to leave the state to a bigger program. He was three-time all-state football player as a wide receiver/cornerback at Helena Capital, and also a three-time all-state basketball player. In his senior season, he was the Montana Gatorade player of the year in both basketball and football and 2010 News Tribune Western 100 selection.
“Matt was one of those guys that was such a good high school player, everybody was talking about him in Montana,” Boise State head coach Chris Petersen said. “When we finally recruited him, everyone said they were so glad to see him go, cause they were tired of having to play against him.”
Miller got hurt in fall camp of his freshman year and redshirted.
“We got to see him a little, but not enough to say ‘oh, man this guy is something,’” Petersen said.
After a solid spring practice, Miller made his debut in the season opener against Georgia in the Georgia Dome. He caught five passes for 57 yards and touchdown in the Broncos’ 35-21 win.
“He goes out there and plays like he’d been playing for us three years,” Petersen said.
He finished his first season setting single-season freshmen school records in catches (62), receiving yards (679) and touchdown catches (9). Miller leads Boise this season with 60 catches for 679 yards and five touchdowns.
“The stage doesn’t bother him in the slightest,” Petersen said. “He’s just so competitive.”
Petersen didn’t have to look very hard to find Moore.
The younger brother of Boise State’s most decorated player, former quarterback Kellen Moore, Kirby, was destined for the blue turf even as he was tearing up the Washington 2A ranks. As a senior at Prosser, playing under his father Tom’s system, Kirby Moore caught 131 passes for 2,126 yards and 34 touchdowns. He was the 2A player of the year and was named to the News Tribune All-State team as well to the Western 100 and a Northwest Nugget.
Bigger and faster and stronger than his older brother, there were many in the Washington high school ranks that figured Kirby would be a better college player than Kellen. While that hasn’t happened, Kirby Moore is Boise’s second-leading receiver with 36 catches for 368 yards and a touchdown.
He played in 13 games as a true freshman, making 21 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns. Because he played immediately and with a glut of talented wide receivers in the program, Petersen decided to redshirt Kirby Moore in 2010. Last season, he played in all 13 games and caught 22 passes for 247 yards and a touchdown.
“If you had a whole team of Kirby Moore’s this would be a real easy job,” Petersen said. “He’s a really good person and a great student. He’s just a quiet, humble, unassuming guy, who goes out there and does his job and makes plays.”
Of course, the receiving numbers are a little down this season. Life after Kellen Moore hasn’t been easy. You simply don’t lose a player Petersen called “the greatest pocket passer he ever coached,” and not feel the effect.
Under new quarterback Joe Southwick, the Broncos are averaging 216.8 yards per game passing, down from the 309.4 yards per game the year before.
But neither Miller nor Kirby Moore has dropped a hint of frustration with the lack of production. That’s not how they operate.
“They don’t talk, they just go play,” Petersen said.
Maybe it’s a small town thing.