In his first game in a Kansas State uniform, Briley Moore had one of the team’s best performances. Though K-State lost to Arkansas State 35-31 last week, Moore acquitted himself well. A graduate transfer tight end who began his career at Northern Iowa, Moore had a team-high six catches for 54 yards and a touchdown.
It’s exactly the outing head coach Chris Klieman expected from Moore.
“I knew Briley was going to play well,” said Klieman, a Northern Iowa alum himself. “He had a really good camp and he’s probably one of the hungriest guys we have on the football team.”
There’s a reason for that.
“He has a chip on his shoulder, because nobody thought he was good enough to play in the Big 12 or at any Power 5 (program),” Klieman said. “He has come in and gained instant respect from our older guys who have played a lot of football to say, ‘Boy, this kid’s a really good player.’ But more than that, he handles his business. He practices hard. He competes. He holds people accountable. He does all the right things.”
Evaluating himself after Game 1, Moore said he felt there were “a couple of technique things” he needed to fine tune. Possibly, he said, that stemmed from being fatigued — it was his first game in more than a year, after all. He last played in Northern Iowa’s opener at Iowa State on Aug. 31, 2019. During the game, he suffered a season-ending knee injury.
It was the last time he ever appeared in a Panther jersey.
After entering the transfer portal and joining the Wildcats’ program earlier this summer, Moore admitted he was pleased with his grasp of the offense — “I felt comfortable out there,” he said — and how well the coaching staff had explained the concepts. And Moore didn’t dispute Klieman’s assertion: Moore said he was motivated to prove wrong all who had doubted him.
He’s just disappointed that despite his efforts, he couldn’t help the Wildcats fend off the upstart Red Wolves.
“I was just trying to control what I could control and do whatever I was asked to do,” Moore said. “Unfortunately, we weren’t able to come out with a win, so it’s time to evaluate ourselves and see what more of an impact we can have on the next one.”
Yet Moore’s success can’t be untethered from Skylar Thompson. A pass-catcher is nothing without a quarterback who can get him the ball. It helps that long before Moore ever arrived in Manhattan, the two already had a bond. They had played youth football and basketball against each other in Missouri. And whenever the two were back home from college during the summer, they would work out together, Thompson throwing passes, Moore running routes.
The friendship only deepened once Moore became Thompson’s newest teammate.
“(Thompson’s) leadership, from the moment I got here — really, the moment I decided to transfer here — of walking me through, ‘OK, we do this on this scheme and this is what I’m looking for’ (was so helpful),” Moore said. “We watched film together last week and got on the same page on certain things.”
That synergy evinced itself on a fourth-down conversion.
K-State trailed 28-21 with 9:17 remaining. Facing fourth-and-2 at its own 45, the Wildcats elected to roll the dice. It paid off, with Thompson hitting Moore for a 4-yard gain. K-State capitalized on the gamble, going on to score a touchdown (a 5-yard rush by Harry Trotter) to level the contest at 28-all.
The drive-sustaining conversion initially wasn’t intended for Moore. Instead, Thompson checked into the play at the line of scrimmage.
It was Moore’s time to shine.
“I knew it was coming to me,” he said. “Skylar did a great job of putting the ball outside of where the defender could catch it, and it made it an easy catch for me. I think that just shows the type of football player and leader and commander of the offense that Skylar is to be able to go up there on fourth-and-2 and make a check and make a big-time throw to keep the chains moving.”
Still, Moore tried to downplay that he was the key part of the play.
“It’s a pretty good indicator of, not just me and him, but the comfort level that there is overall with our players. It happened to be me and him on that specific play, and it shows he’s comfortable putting the ball in people’s hands,” Moore said. “If there was somebody else in that situation, he would’ve done the same thing, but I think it really shows his comfort level and his confidence that he has in our offense.”
Important as the conversion was at the time, the highlight of Moore’s debut came in the second quarter, when he hauled in a 7-yard touchdown reception. For Moore, the feeling was hard to top.
“I knew (from) the play call that there was potential to be a touchdown, and from the moment that I saw the ball released from Skylar’s hand to getting back to the sideline after he tackled me, it was just honestly unreal,” he said. “It felt amazing, and I wish we could’ve done more to come out with a victory so we could actually celebrate the first touchdown. But in the moment, it was absolutely amazing.”
Prior to the opener, Thompson described Moore in similarly effusive terms.
“But above all,” Thompson said, “he’s just a great person.”
Thompson said Moore’s approach to life, and his value system, mirror his own.
“He means a lot to me, and I’m just so excited for him to have this opportunity to play on this stage and play in our offense,” Thompson said. “He’s going to help us out so much.”
That influence extends beyond on-field contributions.
“With his position group at tight end, we have some younger guys in that room who are very talented,” Thompson said.
“Having a guy like Briley in that room — who’s had experience, who understands the game really well, being able to look up to him and learn from him, ask questions, all that stuff — has been super helpful for our football team.”
As much as he’s already done, through the coronavirus-affected summer workouts, preseason camp and last week’s game, Klieman doesn’t believe Moore is anywhere close to a finished product.
“I think we can get more out of Briley Moore, and that’s what I’m going to challenge Briley to do,” Klieman said. “He needs to be more for us moving forward, but I was so impressed with how he just came right in and made plays. I know he’s going to have a terrific season.”