With Brett Hundley of UCLA and Kevin Hogan of Stanford in what can only be characterized as sophomore slumps, no quarterback has clearly established himself as the third-best in the Pac-12. The overlooked Taylor Kelly made his case Thursday night, when Arizona State delivered a Halloween hammering of Washington State, 55-21.
Kelly was 22-of-31 passing for 275 yards and five touchdowns with one interception and also rushed for 66 yards and two touchdowns on 13 carries, slicing up a Cougars secondary that looked little like the group that smothered Auburn and USC in the first two weeks of the season.
Kelly found versatile running back D.J. Foster (seven receptions for 77 yards) for two touchdowns, and wide receiver Richard Smith and tight end Chris Coyle also scored. Wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who was limited by an ankle injury, added the other receiving touchdown.
The only surprise was that the Sun Devils scored 55 points -- their most in a conference road game since 1996 -- without running back Marion Grice getting involved. Grice's streak of 10 straight games with at least one touchdown was snapped. He had 18 carries for 94 yards and two receptions for 31 yards.
A 6-foot-2, 201-pound redshirt junior, Kelly was regarded as an afterthought in the quarterback competition going into last season, but he emerged with the job over two more touted freshmen. What Kelly must have showed in practice carried over to live action. He proved to be a steady distributor in the ASU spread offense, completing 67.1 percent of his passes.
While his accuracy is down slightly this season as he adjusts to a new group of wide receivers, Kelly will have his chance to solidify his standing with games against Oregon State and at UCLA. The game against the Bruins, at the Rose Bowl on Nov. 23, probably will decide the Pac-12 South.
Always the forgotten man, Kelly will get his chance to prove his standing in the Pac-12 over the final month of the season. Based on his previous track record, it wouldn't be a surprise if Kelly seizes the opportunity.