(Photo: ASU Athletics)
Taylor Kelly did not have his best game on Saturday night. Far from it.
In a 24-10 victory over Washington, Kelly struggled to find a rhythm and the offense of the No. 14 Arizona State Sun Devils was unable to ever look like its usual, prolific self.
Kelly completed 14-of-25 passes on the night for 180 yards and two touchdowns, but it was a third quarter throw that was intercepted by UW’s John Timu and returned for a 63-yard touchdown that caused many ASU fans to call for Mike Bercovici to take over.
And they were wrong.
Given the circumstances, Kelly actually performed well in his first game back from a foot injury that sidelined the passer for six weeks. With huge wind gusts in Seattle affecting any pass that traveled more than 15 yards in the air, the quarterbacks from both teams struggled to keep passes from sailing over the heads of receivers.
In fact, it was an overthrown ball from Troy Williams of the Huskies that sailed into the arms of ASU’s Armand Perry, sealing the game for the Sun Devils.
With the intermediate and deep passing game essentially eliminated from ASU’s offensive repertoire, Washington employed a downhill-style defense that had no fear of being beaten over the top.
The Huskies are a team that has struggled defending the pass in 2014, but the team was able to worry about stopping the ASU rushing attack instead, which managed just 2.4 yards per carry on 43 rushing attempts.
Kelly wasn’t helped too much by his receivers either, as D.J. Foster and Jaelen Strong each dropped easy passes that stunted the progress of the ASU offense.
Am I making excuses for Kelly? Probably, but maybe someone should before Bercovici is annointed as the team’s savior.
Without question, Kelly looked rusty and made some poor decisions. And without question, it was a tremendous showing by the ASU defense that resulted in the win, but patience is a virtue.
Given another week to work himself into the lineup and given more time to settle into his role, Kelly will once again look like the quarterback who is quickly climbing up the all-time record leaderboards for the Sun Devils.
With a home game against No. 19 Utah next on the docket for ASU in what will certainly be a significantly-less windy Sun Devil Stadium, the opportunity for Kelly to continue that return to his former self will be there once again.
Why does Kelly deserve to be the starting quarterback over Bercovici? Because he’s the captain and, quite simply, he’s just the better quarterback.
It was true before his injury and, assuming Kelly isn’t injured once again, it’s true after his return from injury as well.