Bill Slane

Kelly’s 5-touchdown performance is great news for the offense

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There are plenty of positives you could pick out from Thursday’s 55-0 win against the Sacramento State Hornets. Possibly the best thing that can be taken from the shutout victory against the FCS opponent was the look of the offense, as it looked efficient going at full speed from the first snap to the final whistle.

There are plenty of great numbers that can be mentioned when talking about the offense’s performance last night, 523 yards of total offense, 21 points off of turnovers, just to name a few. The most impressive however, came from quarterback Taylor Kelly. Kelly tossed five touchdowns in the first half, which in it of itself would be a pretty impressive number but looking at the box score revealed the real feat that Kelly accomplished versus the Hornet defense.

All five of Kelly’s touchdown throws were to five different receiving targets. De’Marieya Nelson, Kevin Ozier, Marion Grice, Jaelen Strong, and Chris Coyle all were on the receiving end of Taylor Kelly touchdowns. Aside from just the scoring plays, Kelly also had five different receivers with over 40 yards and did an outstanding job at spreading the wealth to a number of targets.

Kelly was quick to pass of the glory to his teammates post game in an interview on the field with the Pac-12 Network.

“My offensive line did a great job of protecting me. And my athletes, Jaelen Strong, DJ Foster, Marion Grice, all of those guys got open for me and it’s easy for my job just to fly it out to them,” Kelly said post-game.

Being able to spread the field such as the Sun Devils were able to do last night bodes very well for the team as the real competition begins next week when the Wisconsin Badgers roll into Sun Devil Stadium. If Kelly develops chemistry with some of his new targets like Strong and Nelson, and has continues to grow with veterans in the offense like Grice, Foster, or Ozier, then this offense has the potential to be special this year.

Being able to go to multiple targets will particularly help the Devils when they face some of those teams this season with top-caliber defenses. Stanford with their group of high-quality linebackers, or UCLA with their pass-rushing front-seven could be given some problems if Kelly can continue to click with all of these targets.

One player in particular that stood out was JUCO-transfer Jaelen Strong who most people have high hopes for this season. In practices he hasn’t stood out much to me, in fact I’ve seen him drop several passes in traffic. After dropping the first pass thrown his way, Strong ended up having a great first game in a Sun Devil uniform with six catches, 58 yards, and a very impressive touchdown grab with a Hornet defender hanging all over him. Strong made a couple of impressive grabs, the first of which was a beautiful catch on the sideline, and if he can truly turn into a play-maker in the offense then the high hopes for this team have a very good chance of coming to fruition.

There were even some receiving targets that didn’t get any catches or even playing time that have projected to be parts of the offense. If players like Joe Morris or Ellis Jefferson can also find ways to make plays on offense that would just be a bonus.

If there was a negative in all of this, it would probably be the running game. The team ended with a total of 158 rushing yards, but it just kind of seemed that they never truly established the run game. Marion Grice had 14 carries for 59 yards and a score as the leading rusher last night. Obviously the Devils like to use their running backs in the passing game and Grice added four catches for 65 yards and a score along with his carries last night. However, the Devils will have to establish some kind of running attack if they want to make that jump to the next level.

Kelly brought this up also in his interview post game on the field when talking about what the team needs to work on for next week’s game.

“We gotta be able to run the football. We have a lot of work to do with that, we have to get our offensive line and running backs running harder,” Kelly said on the field post-game.

Sacramento State is obviously not the best defense the Sun Devils will be facing this season, so we need to look at these numbers with a grain of salt. But the Sun Devil offense did everything a fan could have possibly asked for in pounding their FCS opponent. Their first real test is next week, and if they can do half of what they did on offense against the Badgers, then we can really start talking about how good this Sun Devil team can truly be.

ASU Devils Den intern Bill Slane will be writing a weekly column for the site during the fall semester.   He can be reached on Twitter @bill_slane

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