Senior season ‘a struggle at times’ for Arizona State Sun Devil QB Taylor Kelly
TEMPE, Ariz. — When a team loses a game, questions are asked and explanations are sought.
Arizona State head coach Todd Graham provided one after his team lost 35-27 at Oregon State, ending a five-game winning streak.
“Our execution on offense has not been there,” he said this week. “We’ve been off a little bit.”
The offense sputtered last Saturday, especially in the second half, when the Sun Devils gained just 110 yards and managed only a field goal.
Now when an offense struggles, the finger is immediately pointed toward the quarterback. In this case, that quarterback is Taylor Kelly, who is now eight weeks removed from surgery to repair a broken right foot he suffered at Colorado.
“He’s gotten better,” Graham said, “but I still don’t think he’s running to the level he was before (the injury). I’m not sure he’s 100 percent back yet. That’s something that is hard to evaluate and hard to look at because obviously watching him in practice is one thing and games is another.”
Kelly returned at Washington on Oct. 25, and he helped lead the Sun Devils to three straight wins and a No. 6 ranking in the College Football Playoff poll before those dreams were dashed in Corvallis last Saturday.
In each of the four games since he’s been back, Kelly has completed less than 61 percent of his passes and has thrown at least one interception. He had zero picks prior to getting hurt.
“I’m still continuing on to get better each week,” said Kelly, the Pac-12’s least accurate passer (57.4 percent). “It’s hard when you sit out for five-to-six weeks, not only physically but mentally. The speed of the game. Timing. Just driving the football. Those type of things. I’m continuing to work on that in practice and get better.”
Kelly agreed with Graham’s assessment about his health.
“I don’t feel where I’m 100 percent yet,” he said. “That’s why I’m continuing on to try to get back to where I was. Sometimes my feet are slow. The timer in my head is slow. It’s not just where I was at the beginning. It took me all summer, all camp to get those timings back, so I’ve got to bring that back a lot quicker.”
Is Kelly frustrated?
“It’s a struggle at times,” he answered, “but you’ve got to continue to fight through adverse situations. It’s going to happen in life. Not everything is going to go great, so you’ve got to just keep chopping at the wood and good things are going to happen.”
This week would be a good start.
ASU (8-2) hosts Washington State Saturday. It’s Senior Day, the final day Kelly will put on the uniform to play inside Sun Devil Stadium.
“I’m excited,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting moment.”
Kelly is one of 11 seniors who will be honored before the game.
“We’ve done some incredible things while we’ve been here,” he said. “We had about 20-something and now we have 11. It’s crazy to think of how far we’ve come.”
And Kelly has come farther than most. In 2012, he started fall camp as the third quarterback on Graham’s depth chart, only to surpass Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici to win the starting job.
“I always had that confidence in myself. My goal was to be the starting quarterback here,” he said. “There’s adverse situations that are going to hit, and I took advantage of those and just worked as hard as I could to get that opportunity.”