Mark May: Without Kelly, Arizona State Sun Devils have slim chance to beat UCLA

Sep 24, 2014, 2:23 AM | Updated: 5:01 pm
LISTEN: Mark May, ESPN college football analyst

Without the mobility of injured quarterback Taylor Kelly, the 15th-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils will face an uphill battle against a more talented UCLA team.

That’s the opinion of ESPN college football analyst Mark May heading into ASU’s Thursday night home matchup against the No. 11 Bruins, in which junior QB Mike Bercovici will get his first NCAA start in place of Kelly, who suffered a broken foot in ASU’s 38-24 win at Colorado on Sept. 13.

“I think it’s going to be difficult,” May told Burns and Gambo on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM Tuesday. “I think (Bercovici is) going to have a good command of the offense, but I just don’t think he’s athletic enough as Taylor Kelly. That’s why Taylor Kelly’s a starter.”

Kelly rushed for 608 yards and nine touchdowns in 2013 when he led ASU to the Pac-12 South championship, and he has 168 yards and two scores on the ground in two-plus games this year.

May said the Devils will miss Kelly’s running ability with Bercovici under center.

“I don’t think you’re going to see him run the ball as much, and that takes a lot out of their offense. That’s one aspect of their offense they really need to move the football,” he said.

The Bruins may also be without their starting quarterback on Thursday. Junior Brett Hundley, a dual-threat QB who reportedly suffered a hyperextended elbow on his non-throwing arm in UCLA’s 20-17 win at Texas on Sept. 13, is likely to be a game-time decision.

May isn’t convinced that Hundley, a Chandler High School grad who led the Bruins to the 2012 Pac-12 South championship, will suit up — but if he does, May said the Sun Devils could be in trouble, even if Hundley isn’t at 100 percent.

“I think he’s probably going to try to play, but I don’t think he’s going to be the Hundley that we expect to see because he shouldn’t be able to run the ball as effectively because of his elbow,” he said. “He’s a running quarterback; he’s got to use both arms.

“I think (it was be tough for ASU to win) if he guts it out and plays and takes one for the team. I think with his leadership ability, and if you just look at the athletes they have — they have athletes and better players on the other side of the ball; they just haven’t played up to their potential this year.”

However, May said UCLA’s offensive line has been one of the NCAA’s worst in recent years in terms of QB protection, and that hasn’t changed thus far in 2014. He said that could present an opportunity for ASU’s defense.

“The thing is we thought last year they were just young. Well, this year they’re just soft,” he said. “They just haven’t been able to get the job done protecting their quarterback.”

Conversely, May said the Bruins’ defense should be up to the task of containing junior running back D.J. Foster, whose 510 rushing yards and 9.4 yards per carry are both eighth-best in the FBS this season.

“I think they can. Their defense has played really well at times this year,” he said.

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