Arizona State head coach Todd Graham is paid a handsome sum to make difficult decisions.
His choice to pull senior quarterback Taylor Kelly late in the third quarter of last week’s Territorial Cup loss to Arizona wasn’t well-received by everyone, including Jake Plummer who, as a senior himself, engineered the Sun Devils to a Rose Bowl birth-clinching win over the Wildcats at Arizona Stadium back in 1996.
“I was a little shocked at that decision,” the Pac-12 Network analyst told Sports360AZ.com’s Brad Cesmat during his weekly phone interview Thursday morning. “Todd Graham has done a great job coaching those kids, instilling a lot of discipline and love for each other. I was just a little shocked to see him take out the guy that’s been doing it for three years. We know he’s not perfect…but when a play is needed to be made we’ve seen him step up. I just thought it was a little bit premature.”
Kelly and his reliever Mike Bercovici posted similar stats in the 42-35 setback. TK completed 13-22 for 144 yards and two touchdowns. In less than half the playing time Bercovici was 14-22 for 123 yards, two touchdowns and one interception. The numbers are slightly skewed as Arizona softened their defense a bit once Kelly was pulled.
“Had [ASU] won the game I still don’t like the move,” Plummer continued. “I don’t like taking a three-year starter out in the rivalry game. I think that’s his opportunity to go do something. I’m a little disappointed but hey, that’s how it goes.”
Immediately after the game Graham emphatically said Kelly will start the Devils (9-3) bowl game which will be announced on Sunday. Bercovici echoed the sentiments expressing it was Taylor’s team and job for the final game.
It remains to be seen how patient deputy head coach Mike Norvell and Graham will be if the offense sputters like it did in Tucson.