ASU notebook: Numbers tell the story for Kelly

BY foxsports • September 24, 2012

TEMPE, Ariz. -- On his weekly radio show Monday, Arizona State coach Todd Graham casually mentioned that he had nearly decided to eliminate long shot Taylor Kelly from the team's three-man quarterback competition before the start of fall camp to avoid repping three players at the position. He's certainly glad he didn't.

Through four games as ASU's starter, Kelly has excelled with the efficiency that initially won him the job over Mike Bercovici and Michael Eubank. With a 182.20 passer rating and a 72.53 completion percentage (66 of 91), Kelly currently ranks ninth nationally and first in the Pac-12 in efficiency.

Put simply, Kelly is getting the job done, and that's what matters most to Graham.

"(Efficiency) is the No. 1 thing in our offense," Graham said at his weekly press conference. "That's what we want. We want him to be efficient. He's a good decision maker, he's very calm and poised.

"One of his strengths is he's a very good manager of our offense. He has a good understanding of it."

Kelly's efficiency took a dive early in ASU's first road game of the season, a loss to Missouri, when he started 1 for 8 passing. But he went 12 for 15 the rest of the game and then went 19 for 26 in ASU's 37-7 win over Utah on Saturday to make him 31 of 40 since the cold stretch.

While Kelly doesn't typically make flashy plays or big throws, his efficiency so far has the ASU offense rolling. It ranks 33rd in the nation with 468.0 yards per game and racked up 512 yards against Utah, most the Utes had allowed since 2010.

Kelly also bounced back from a poor display of ball security against Missouri. He threw two interceptions and lost a fumble in that game, but against Utah, he did not commit a turnover. It was his third game of the year with no interceptions.

The Pac-12 quarterback closest to Kelly in pass efficiency is Oregon redshirt freshman Marcus Mariota, who has a 165.59 passer rating and a 69.64 completion percentage.

SPECIAL-TEAMS RECOVERY

ASU's special-teams units also bounce back from a rough game against Missouri in which several miscues proved costly. Despite a pair of penalties, Graham saw improvement against Utah.

"I think we played good; we didn’t play great," Graham said. "We improved, but that's going to be a very key point for us that we maintain consistency there and continue to get better."

None of the snapping issues or sloppiness present in the Missouri game reappeared against Utah, but Graham said there were more mental errors. In that regard, he may be referring specifically to the penalties, which were ASU's first on special teams this year. Graham has taken pride in having no special-teams penalties in complete seasons during his time at Tulsa.

While Graham will continue to push the special teams units to improve, part of the process simply involves personnel development.

"One of the issues is depth," Graham said. "We need some guys in the depth that don't necessarily play as much on offense and defense to step up and help us there."

NOTES AND OBSERVATIONS

-- In four games this year, ASU has had four different players lead the team in rushing yards. Against Utah it was freshman D.J. Foster, who had 70 yards on 10 carries. Junior Marion Grice led the way in Week 1 with 107 yards, followed the next week by Cameron Marshall with 52 and then Taylor Kelly with 59. Foster leads the team overall with 204 yards on 32 carries this season.

-- Redshirt junior center Kody Koebensky left Saturday's game in the first half with an undisclosed injury. Graham didn't have much information on the injury following the game, and he did not mention it Monday. Redshirt freshman Mo Latu, who moved to center from defensive tackle in the spring, filled in for Koebensky. Given Latu's inexperience, this is something to watch.

-- The Sun Devils are outscoring opponents in the first quarter this season 49-10. Meanwhile, they have yet to allow a single fourth-quarter point, outscoring opponents 40-0 in the final 15 minutes.

-- After a season-high eight penalties for 51 yards against Utah, ASU dropped five spots in the national rankings, from seventh to 12th, in fewest penalty yards per game. The Devils' 35 penalty yards per game are fewest in the Pac-12.

-- ASU's offensive line impressed Graham in the win over Utah. The run game churned out 142 yards while the line contained standout defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a first-team All-Pac-12 player last season. Lotulelei recorded five tackles, one for loss.

-- After a good deal of scrutiny about the quarterback rotation after the loss to Missouri, ASU was a bit more conservative swapping Eubank in for Kelly against Utah. It may have simply been a product of Kelly's rhythm, but Eubank played just three snaps in the first half while Kelly took 33. Eubank came in with about two and a half minutes left in the third quarter, with ASU up 34-7, and remained in the rest of the way.

-- Walk-on Andres Garcia, who joined the team only a few weeks ago, has seen action on special teams -- kickoff returns, in particular -- the past two weeks. Graham said Monday that Garcia is a very strong, athletic player and has been able to fill a need. Graham also hinted that another walk-on or two could make a special-teams appearance this week.


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