Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly starts slow, finishes strong in Sun Devils’ Senior Day win

Nov 22, 2014, 11:59 PM | Updated: 11:59 pm
Follow @Vincemarotta...

TEMPE, Ariz. — You can’t pull your senior quarterback on Senior Day, can you?

It’s safe to assume the majority of the 51,428 fans at Sun Devil Stadium Saturday wanted Arizona State head coach Todd Graham to do just that.

The once-vaunted Sun Devil offense looked broken early on with senior Taylor Kelly at the controls. ASU went backward in the first quarter — literally — for minus-23 yards on its first four possessions.

After Washington State freshman Luke Falk hit Isiah Myers on a 20-yard touchdown pass with 4:52 to go in the second quarter, Washington State led 21-7. The natives were restless.

But as he has since Kelly’s return from a foot injury four games ago, Graham showed patience and loyalty toward his quarterback. Kelly responded by completing 15-of-25 passes for 232 yards and four touchdowns in ASU’s 52-31 win that kept them in the running for the Pac-12 South title.

“We had to come out and execute, and we weren’t doing that early on,” Kelly said following his last home game in Tempe. “We kind of lost our focus, I think, at the beginning of the game.

What helped the Sun Devils dial in that focus was an opportunistic defense that forced five Washington State turnovers. All five led to Arizona State touchdowns.

“Our defense did a great job again. They’re unbelievable,” Kelly said. “We can always rely on them and they rely on (the offense). That’s what a great team is.”

It was another steady, yet unspectacular, performance for Kelly, whose career has been defined by them. The Eagle, Idaho native has been the subject of consternation for ASU fans for most of the season. A seemingly ever-growing faction of supporters have jumped on the “Mike Bercovici should start” bandwagon, based on his production during three starts in Kelly’s absence.

It didn’t take long for the vocal anti-Kelly sentiment to pop up again Saturday. Social media swirled with insults and the crowd even booed after another three-and-out series that ended in a Matt Haack punt.

The critics have had an effect on the quarterback, according to his head coach.

“I think that the criticism has affected him — I’m not saying that it’s affected his play at all,” Graham said. “I’m going to tell you that no one is harder on him than him. It has been a struggle. It hasn’t been like getting right back on the bike and have it be just like it was before.

“But, you know what? We’re sitting here with nine wins. I’m so proud of this program. That’s 27 wins in three years — that’s averaging nine per year. That’s not bad. And we’re not done yet.”

They’re not. Arizona State still has to go down to Tucson to take on arch-rival Arizona next Friday in a game that could determine the Pac-12 South championship. Graham will continue to ride with Kelly as his quarterback.

“I’m not changing quarterbacks with the wind, sorry,” he said. “I’ll be hired and fired on my decisions and I’m always going to make the decisions myself.

“I hope that people respect that.”

Kelly, incidentally, is 2-0 in his career against Arizona. He’ll have the opportunity to win his third the day after Thanksgiving.

Graham thanked all 13 members of the ASU senior class, but elaborated on the quarterback who defied the odds to win the starting job in fall camp three seasons ago.

“In particular, I want to thank him. No one that’s outside this program knows what that young man has meant to our program,” Graham said. “Just from a character standpoint and how he leads. There is not a player on our team he doesn’t interact with. That is strange. That is not normal.

“He is just the most humble and gracious person that has been absolutely remarkable. I’m just thrilled that he was able to finish his Senior Day like that.”

Penguin Air

Comments

Comment guidelines: No name-calling, personal attacks, profanity, or insults. Please keep the conversation civil and help us moderate comments by reporting abuse.
comments powered by Disqus

Arizona State Football

Arizona State coach Herm Edwards speaks during the Pac-12 Conference men's NCAA college football me...
Kevin Zimmerman

Arizona State’s Herm Edwards makes SI’s most intriguing head coach list

It's not for the best of reasons, but a bit of national attention will be on Arizona State head coach Herm Edwards this upcoming season.
2 days ago
Arizona State Sun Devils left guard LaDarius Henderson. (Twitter Photo/@ASUFootball)...
Jake Anderson

ASU notebook: QB battle continues; LaDarius Henderson an on-field coach

The Arizona State Sun Devils football team wrapped up their fourth practice of fall camp on Saturday morning.
1 day ago
General view of action between the Arizona State Sun Devils and the Arizona Wildcats during the sec...
Nikash Nath

Sun Devil football announces open house for Aug. 6

The event on Saturday, Aug. 6 will allow for the fans and community to engage with the 2022 Sun Devil football team.
1 day ago
Arizona State Sun Devils defensive back Jordan Clark. (Twitter Photo/@ASUFootball)...
Jake Anderson

Arizona State’s secondary to utilize length, Jordan Clark at safety

The Arizona State Sun Devils have a whopping 21 defensive backs on the roster heading into the 2022 college football season.
3 days ago
Pac-12 Conference commissioner George Kliavkoff speaks at Pac-12 NCAA college football media day Fr...
Arizona Sports

Pac-12, Larry Fitzgerald-backed startup to monetize highlights for NIL

The Pac-12 is entering the NIL space by partnering with a startup that will help athletes earn money from their personalized game highlights.
3 days ago
Arizona State defensive back Chase Lucas reacts after knocking down a pass against Colorado in the ...
Nikash Nath

Wildcats WR Jacob Cowing named his son after ASU product Chase Lucas

Here's something you don't see every day: A college football player naming his son after a former player from his rival school.
4 days ago
Arizona State’s Taylor Kelly starts slow, finishes strong in Sun Devils’ Senior Day win