TEMPE, Ariz. — Despite wins over then-16th-ranked USC and 23rd-ranked Stanford, quarterback Mike Bercovici will find himself on the sidelines when the 14th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils play at Washington this week.
That’s where he was at the start of the season — and the two seasons prior — and that’s where he’ll remain, barring another injury or setback to Taylor Kelly.
“Taylor is our starting quarterback,” offensive coordinator and deputy head coach Mike Norvell said following practice on Tuesday.
Yes, Bercovici has played well. Very well, in fact.
In the three games filling in for Kelly, he’s completed 63 percent of his passes for 1,243 yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions, both of which came against UCLA. His 510-yard effort at USC ranks as the 11th-highest single game total in Division I this season. He has also thrown 118 consecutive passes without an interception.
“Berc did exactly what we wanted from him,” Norvell said.
Yet, given the eye-popping numbers as well as a fan base and media contingent clamoring to see Bercovici remain the starter, the decision to go back to Kelly was an easy one, according to head coach Todd Graham.
“I’ve won 20 games with Taylor Kelly,” he said. “At the end of the day it’s my job to put the best player on the field that I think gives us the best chance to win a championship. And he’s the guy.”
Kelly has not played since hurting his right foot at Colorado on Sept. 13.
He was available to play last week against Stanford, but was held out for a third straight game.
“I think that we did the right thing not playing him,” Graham said.
Kelly has progressed to the point where he is no longer practicing in a green ‘no-contact’ jersey. He’s wearing a gold, ‘no-touch’ jersey like the other quarterbacks.
“I thought he looked good today, moved around good. Everything looks fine,” Graham said.
Both Kelly and Bercovici received first-team reps but Kelly took the majority of the snaps, according to Norvell.
This season Kelly is 42-of-68 (61.8 percent) for 625 yards and six touchdowns in helping lead the Sun Devils to a 3-0 start. He’s also rushed for 168 yards, the second-best mark on the team, and two scores.
His spot as the number-one quarterback, said Bercovici, is secure.
“The identity of the quarterback position here at school is that we’re all champions, we’re all hard workers, we’re all guys who are talented. So, it doesn’t really matter who’s in there under center,” Bercovici said. “My job is that when Taylor was injured, I had to come in here and keep this team going on a championship race; and now that he’s back, I’m excited to see him get back on the field. The team is excited that he’s getting back here and he’s looking great.”
Kelly did not address reporters. He speaks on Wednesdays.
“One thing I learned,” Graham said, “if you’re going to be a defensive-minded head coach, don’t be switching quarterbacks all the time. Get one and believe in him. I think Taylor has earned that. And I do believe that he’s the best one that gives us the best chance.”