IRVING, Texas – Kellen Moore and Tyrod Taylor have been starting quarterbacks on opposite sidelines before, leading a pair of top 10 programs in a thrilling 2010 college football season opener.
This Sunday they'll meet again – Taylor a first-year starter for the Buffalo Bills, Moore making his first career start for the Cowboys. This game won't have postseason implications; both teams were eliminated from playoff contention last weekend.
But the quarterbacks have a forum to continue proving they can play at the highest level. They've waited a long time for the opportunity.
Taylor was a sixth-round pick of the Ravens in 2011. Standing 6-foot-1, many draft prognosticators thought he'd make a better pro receiver. Baltimore kept him at quarterback, where he was a reserve for four seasons.
"I sat behind a very good quarterback in Joe Flacco, learned from a couple different coaches, and was able to work on my game in the process," Taylor said in a conference call with the Dallas-Fort Worth media. "I think going against the defense that we had in Baltimore for numbers of years definitely bettered me."
This past spring, Taylor signed with Buffalo and won the starting job over former Bills first-round pick E.J. Manuel and veteran Matt Cassel, now Moore's backup in Dallas.
In addition to 20 touchdown passes in 12 games, Taylor's 450 rushing yards (including a Bills-record 79 this past Sunday against the Redskins) rank third among NFL quarterbacks. His 101.8 passer rating is fifth-best among starting quarterbacks.
Those patient four years are starting to pay off.
"I'm a big believer," Taylor said, "and just continued to keep faith and knew that one time the opportunity would present itself. I just wanted to make sure that I was ready when the opportunity came."
Moore, the first Heisman finalist in Boise State history that 2010 season, went undrafted a year after Taylor. His lack of ideal quarterback measurables are well documented: 6 feet tall, 200 pounds.
But, as he showed last Saturday replacing Cassel in the starting lineup, Moore can move an offense down the field. Accuracy, pocket poise, and victories – 50 at Boise State – made him a big hit on campus.
"They love him there," said defensive tackle Tyrone Crawford, Moore's college teammate. "He did great there. He took a school like Boise and he walked out with three losses his whole career. He's a star up there."
Moore won over some new fans in Dallas last Saturday against the Jets. Despite three interceptions, he delivered a spark on offense in two and a half quarters with a touchdown to Dez Bryant and another drive to the 6-yard line before his pass got picked off in the end zone.
Signs of progress and promise, considering the Cowboys averaged 15 points in Cassel's previous six starts and have lost nine of 10 games without Tony Romo (collarbone) this season.
In September 2010, with a touchdown pass in the final two minutes, Moore's Boise State Broncos outlasted Taylor's Virginia Tech Hokies, 33-30. The quarterbacks combined for five touchdowns in the back-and-forth game, and by the end of that season, both had led their teams to conference titles.
Both have moved on to the NFL. Taylor has seized a starting job in Buffalo. In Dallas, the job is Romo's when healthy. But with two games remaining in this season, Moore – after his own four-year wait – has a chance to prove he can step in and play in the pros.
"No doubt, he's obviously taken a similar path as far as having to be patient," Moore said of Taylor. "He's certainly taken advantage of his opportunity in Buffalo. He's playing really, really well."