Arizona State Football: Comparing Quarterbacks Keith Price and Taylor Kelly
Arizona State and Washington haven't met in the past three years, but it's safe to say that they haven't missed each other.
In the classic tale of two teams, one coming off a big win and the other reeling from a disappointing loss, both teams need a win this Saturday—but only one can have it.
The Arizona State Sun Devils (4-2, 2-1 Pac-12) welcome the No. 20 Washington Huskies (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) to Tempe on Homecoming weekend. There will be plenty of pomp and circumstance along with reunions, floats and a parade down University Drive.
The biggest draw of the weekend will be just north of the parade route in Sun Devil Stadium with two of the conference's best quarterbacks providing the fireworks.
Who's the better quarterback when all the chips are down, the game is on the line and myriad other idiomatic expressions?
Here is an in-depth analysis of the two signal callers.
- Height: 6'1"
- Weight: 202
- Year: Senior
- Hometown: Compton, Calif.
Price has a rocket for an arm, he threw for over 3,000 yards his sophomore season, 2,728 last year and already has over 1,500 yards after six games. He averages 8.2 yards per attempt and has thrown 12 touchdowns including a 49-yard score in torrential rain against Arizona.
He averages 262.6 passing yards per game and anchors the No. 30 ranked passing offense in the nation with 278.8 passing yards per game. His 12 touchdown passes and four interceptions are tied for sixth-best in the conference with Brett Hundley of UCLA and Kevin Hogan of Stanford.
- Height: 6'2"
- Weight: 203
- Year: Junior
- Hometown: Eagle, Idaho
Following the departure of Brock Osweiler after the 2011 season, the sophomore quarterback entered the 2012 spring and fall practices battling for the starting position. Head coach Todd Graham showed his eye for spotting talent and designated Kelly the starter over Michael Eubank and Mike Bercovici.
Kelly has been electric since being named starter and hasn't looked back. Through six games this season, he has already amassed 1,965 passing yards and averages 327.5 yards per games and 8.2 yards per attempt.
He is a fixture in the national rankings breaking the top 10 in several areas:
- No. 6 in passing yards
- No. 7 in total offensive yards
- No. 8 in passing TDs
- No. 8 in passing yards per game
- No. 10 in total attempts
- No. 10 in completions per game.
Taylor Kelly is a prototypical dual-threat quarterback. Although he has myriad weapons in Jaelen Strong, D.J. Foster, Chris Coyle and Marion Grice, Kelly still manages to run the ball at a competitive pace.
He is second on the team in both rushing attempts (44) and rushing yards (165) and scored his first touchdown on the ground last week against Colorado scampering 17 yards prior at the end of the first half. Unfortunately for Kelly, as with all quarterbacks, sacks are subtracted from rushing yards which would make his rushing numbers look even better.
Kelly's ability to extend plays and scramble make him a dangerous threat to any defensive scheme.
Keith Price hasn't found much of a need to run the ball this season with the nation's leading rusher in Bishop Sankey in the backfield. Sankey's 899 rushing yards and 159 attempts are both tops in the country.
Price is only averaging 10 yards rushing per game and has finished on the negative side of the fence on two occasions. He has one rushing touchdown, a one-yard push against Idaho State earlier in the month.
When needed, Price is a viable option to run for a couple yards, but Kelly is more of a threat in open-field situations.
Keith Price is a seasoned veteran, the senior quarterback has thrown for 12 touchdowns and only four interceptions this year. This places him at No. 4 in the conference with Marcus Mariota from Oregon, the only QB in the Pac-12 without a pick, leading the way.
Price's ratio of completions to interceptions of 133:4 ranks third in the conference behind the aforementioned Mariota and Oregon State's Sean Mannion.
Both Price and Kelly have taken 12 sacks this season, a number tied for 2nd most in the Pac-12 and 28th most in the nation. Sacks are often unavoidable but other times are a last second decision to not throw it in possible interception situations.
Taylor Kelly has struggled recently with interceptions, including a game-deciding pick-six against Notre Dame in Dallas earlier in October.
His six interceptions are fourth most in the conference tied with Cal's Jared Goff. The Cal football team is in shambles with only one victory this year—against a FCS opponent. Kelly's interceptions have come in pairs this year in Sun Devil losses against Stanford and Notre Dame.
Kelly now holds a 2-7 record when he has thrown at least one interception and a perfect 10-0 record when he doesn't. Suffice to say when Kelly makes good decisions, the Devils win—when he doesn't, the Devils struggle mightily.
Taylor Kelly's name has become synonymous with accuracy in his short career at Arizona State. In his last nine games, Kelly has thrown for 24 touchdowns, completing 190-of-295 passes for 2,670 yards and a 64.4 percentage. He has averaged 296.7 passing yards over that span including starting this year with five straight games over 300 yards. It's safe to assume it would have been six straight had he played the entire game against Colorado.
Kelly already holds the school record in career accuracy, passing greats Rudy Carpenter and Brock Osweiler. For quarterbacks with more than 300 attempts in a season, Kelly is also tops.
Additionally, Kelly holds records for most consecutive pass completions in a game; 18 vs. Washington St. last year as well as the top two places for highest completion percentage in a game; 89.5 percent against Navy in the Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl and 87 percent against Washington St.
Keith Price is having his best year in terms of completion percentage through the first six games of the 2013 season. He has completed 133-of-192 attempts for 1,576 yards, an astounding 69.3 percent. That is good enough to rank him No. 1 in the conference and 12th best in the country among starting quarterbacks.
Price struggled last week against a strong Oregon defense but lit up a Stanford defense that gave Kelly fits only weeks prior.
Advantage: Kelly (by a hair)
Jake Locker was under center for the Washington Huskies the last time time the two teams met and was intercepted by Arizona State's Omar Bolden in the end zone on the final play of the game to give the Sun Devils a 24-14 victory in rainy Seattle.
Locker and Bolden went on to careers in the NFL due to hard work, perseverance and a long list of other intangibles that scouts and GMs saw in the combine and during preseason.
What intangibles do Kelly and Price hold?
Taylor Kelly is mastering the offense and taking command of the team. Kelly himself said (via Ted Miller on ESPN.com)
"When things would start to hit the fan last year, I would kind of panic and start forcing things. Or if we were down, I'd feel I had to make a play. After watching film, I realize I need to take the easy route and take what the defense gives me."
Coach Graham agrees:
"He commands our team. He's a guy with all the intangibles, a guy we completely trust," Graham said. "We have a quarterback who is a championship-level quarterback. That gives you a chance."
Keith Price is a senior that has been playing with an injured thumb on his throwing hand since midway through the Stanford game—his best performance of his career. Huskies' coach Steve Sarkisian admired his tenacity in the game and said (via Adam Jude of the Seattle Times)
“(After) some of the shots he took, for him to continue to get back up to throw the football, to make really critical throws on third downs in the second half, I just thought was tremendous,” Sarkisian said.
Jeff Bell, featured columnist for the Oregon Ducks on Bleacher Report described Price as a bigger threat to the Ducks than running back Bishop Sankey due to his ability to "open up the entire playbook on second and third down," Bell goes on to say:
"Price will have the ball on every offensive snap and will be able to distribute it to any number of offensive weapons. His toughness is unmatched, and he isn't making the same mistakes from last season."
Commanding the offense, opening the entire playbook, playing without panic and through adversity are all major intangibles held by these two solid field generals.
Conclusion and Prediction
Although Kelly's accuracy has fallen off a bit this season, his rushing acumen is what make him a true dual threat in the backfield.
He is ranked No. 20 nationally in Total Quarterback Rating by ESPN which takes into account an entire slew of situations that are not reflected in the stats.
Dean Oliver explains the several areas that Total QBR captures:
"It accounts for down, distance, field position, as well as the clock and score. A 5-yard gain on third-and-4 is a good play, whereas a 5-yard gain on third-and-14 isn't. A 20-yard touchdown pass when tied in the second quarter means more than a 20-yard touchdown pass when down 30 points late in the fourth quarter."
Kelly's Total QBR of 80.4 is 10 spots better than Price's 75.9 and is the third-best rating in the conference.
All things considered; Price's injury, Kelly playing dominant at home and the Sun Devils' current seven-game win streak against the Huskies dating back to 2002, Kelly will prove that he is indeed the better quarterback.
Washington 31, Arizona State 42
David is the Featured Columnist of Arizona State Athletics for B/R. Follow him on Twitter at @asudave.