Taylor Kelly, Laiu Moeakiola's injuries put dark cloud over ASU football
[slideshow_deploy id='149980']No. 16 ASU football survived in Boulder, Colorado, Saturday with a 38-24 win over Colorado, but getting the ‘W’ seemed more like an afterthought.
Even with the game going on, all eyes in the fourth quarter were on ASU redshirt senior quarterback Taylor Kelly, who left the game with a right foot injury at the end of the third quarter.
Everything was going well in Kelly’s world until that point. He was 13-of-21 for 195 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air and had a 50-yard rushing touchdown in the previous drive.
But when he emerged out of the locker room in the fourth quarter on crutches and with a boot on his right leg, it quickly put a dark cloud of uncertainty over the state of ASU football.
His body language during the game seemed far from optimistic. Kelly sat on the bench with a blue towel draped over his head and seemed unenthused as his teammates tried to cheer him up, while redshirt senior quarterback Mike Bercovici held the fort in the background. Kelly had a blank stare as television cameras were fixed on him in the entire fourth quarter.
ASU already had suffered another injury earlier in the game when redshirt sophomore linebacker Laiu Moeakiola left in the second quarter with a right wrist injury after he tried to take down a Colorado ballcarrier on the line of scrimmage.
When asked about Kelly and Moeakiola’s statuses after the game, ASU coach Todd Graham seemed hardly shaken.
“They’ll be fine,” Graham said in a radio interview. “We have a week and a half to get them ready.”
Despite Graham’s optimism, both players — especially Kelly — should be closely monitored as the team has 12 days to rest through a bye week until its Sept. 27 home showdown against No. 12 UCLA, with No. 9 USC and No. 15 Stanford on the horizon.
The situation seems reminiscent from last season when star running back Marion Grice discreetly left the Nov. 23, 2013 game at UCLA with a leg injury. ASU thought there was a chance Grice could return in each week he was out but Grice ended up missing the rest of the season. The Sun Devils went 1-2 in Grice’s absence, which included losses to Stanford in the Pac-12 Championship Game and Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.
Losing Kelly would obviously be fatal. He has been the center of ASU’s offense the last three years at ASU with his efficient passing, his mobility and even his uncanny pooch punting. Graham has consistently praised him as a leader and his dependability.
Moeakiola’s loss would be taxing, too, as ASU just promoted him to captain Tuesday. Graham has praised him all season for his leadership and consistency.
As of Saturday night, nothing is certain yet, and it could be that way all the way up until moments before the UCLA game.
Maybe Kelly and Moeakiola merely suffered dings that just need a bye week to recover through that’ll put them ready for UCLA, but ASU should prepare for the worst just in case.
Even with Moeakiola and Kelly possibly missing time, Graham still has much faith in his team. He has one philosophy that he leans on no matter which players aren’t on the field for him.
“As long as we have 100 percent ball security, we’ll win every game,” Graham said.
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