By Chadd Cripe
© 2011 Idaho Statesman
ATLANTA — Maybe the most stunning part of the Boise State football team’s victory Saturday night at the Georgia Dome was how open the Broncos’ receivers got.
Senior quarterback Kellen Moore repeatedly threw short passes to receivers who had found holes in the Georgia Bulldogs’ zone defense, leading the Broncos to a 35-21 win.
“That was how we figured they were going to use their personnel,” offensive coordinator Brent Pease said. “We didn’t know they were going to be as wide open as they were sometimes.”
Moore was 28-of-34 for 261 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. He never threw a pass over 25 yards in the air.
“We had plays called (for deep balls),” Pease said, “but we knew, the coverage they were playing, it would take that deep route out of it.”
The Broncos receivers — one of the team’s question marks entering the season — did a nice job catching the ball and just as importantly were aggressive in turning those short throws into bigger gains.
That was most apparent on the touchdown catches by redshirt freshman wide receiver Matt Miller and senior tight end Kyle Efaw, who turned upfield and fought through multiple defenders at the goal line.
“Coach (Robert) Prince always preaches that — get vertical,” Miller said. “So I’m going to give him the credit for that one.”
The other key for the Broncos was the protection afforded Moore by an offensive line that played largely with three sophomores who hadn’t played extensively before. Moore wasn’t sacked. He did throw an interception under pressure in the second quarter.
“It allowed us to find those holes in the defense,” Miller said, “and obviously with Kellen he can pick a defense apart pretty easily.”
The Broncos also benefited from their hurry-up offense, which moved so fast at times that the Bulldogs couldn’t keep up. The hurry-up was instrumental two of the first three touchdown drives.
Pease wanted to break it out earlier but because the Broncos didn’t run many plays on their first few drives he needed to stay in the base offense to use the plays he wanted to show early in the game.
“Once we got going, we saw (the pace) hurt them a little bit,” Pease said.
Pease was making his debut as the Broncos’ offensive coordinator after five years as the wide receivers coach. The Broncos generated 390 yards and picked up 24 first downs compared to the Bulldogs’ 13.
“Pease did an excellent job,” coach Chris Petersen said. “The first game out of the gate, he mixed it up well and called a very good game.”
Miller, who is from Helena, Mont., provided the quote of the night. He said it a couple times, with slightly different wording.
Here’s his take on scoring a touchdown on his first college catch:
“I can’t really put it into words how good it felt. It’s kind of like getting your first kiss times a thousand.”
Miller is a big name in Montana. Everything that’s reported about him in Boise gets repeated in his hometown paper.
“Probably going pretty nuts,” Miller said of the reaction at home. “I got a lot of text messages and phone calls this week. I couldn’t wish for greater friends and family back home.”
Miller started the game and finished with five catches for 57 yards. He’s the first freshman receiver to start the opener since Petersen arrived in 2001.
“It’s great, but it’s a football game,” Miller said. “I’ll wake up tomorrow and be a normal human being. We’ve got to start focusing on Toledo now.”
If Miller sounds well-coached, he’s not. Coach Chris Petersen compared Miller’s low-key attitude to Moore’s.
“You think Kellen has no emotion? Matt takes it to a new low,” Petersen said.
Boise State’s starters on the defensive line were outweighed 329-282 on average, but the Broncos recorded six sacks, harassed quarterback Aaron Murray much of the night and limited the Bulldogs tailbacks to 72 yards on 22 carries (3.3 yards per carry) with a long of 12 yards.
“We wanted to go into the game and just be more physical than the O-line,” said senior defensive end Shea McClellin, who led the team with seven tackles and 2.5 sacks. “We wanted to play fast and physical and relentless, and that’s what we did.”
Senior cornerback Jerrell Gavins looked like a shut-down player in the opener. The Bulldogs tried to go deep on him three times. He intercepted one pass, nearly picked off another and blanketed the receiver on the third.
“I thought Jerrell was very, very good,” Petersen said. “I’m really pleased and proud of Jerrell.”
The polls don't come out until Tuesday this week.