Kelly leads Arizona State past California 27-17
Kelly responded by coolly leading the Sun Devils down the field, capping the drive with his third touchdown pass that helped send California to its worst start ever under coach Jeff Tedford with a 27-17 victory on Saturday.
"I have total belief and trust in him," Graham said of his first-year starter. "This guy is poised. He's a person that you have no doubt you can depend on. Is he the best physical person in the world? Probably not. But he makes all the right throws and all the right decisions."
Kelly completed 26 of 45 passes for 292 yards, throwing two touchdowns to Kevin Ozier and one to Darwin Rogers. Arizona State (4-1, 2-0 Pac-12) did the rest on defense, recording six sacks to improve its impressive start under Graham and win at Cal for the first time since 1997.
"We haven't done anything," Graham said. "We haven't accomplished anything yet, but I know we're going to get better."
The start of the season hasn't gone nearly as well for Cal (1-4, 0-2) and Tedford despite the team returning to renovated Memorial Stadium. The Golden Bears have lost three straight games and are off to their worst start since losing their first 10 games in 2001 under Tom Holmoe — who was succeeded the following season by Tedford.
After a strong start to his tenure, Tedford has a losing record since the start of the 2009 season. His only win this year came against Southern Utah of the FCS, and the frustration from fans was evident all afternoon.
"We have to get better," Tedford said. "We got beat by a team who played better than we did. We have to improve and keep working. ... The only way we are going to get better is by working at it.
The Sun Devils, who lead the Pac-12 in scoring and total defense, harassed Zach Maynard all afternoon, proving they can be just effective against a starting quarterback after feasting on backups the previous three weeks.
Will Sutton and Junior Onyeali spent much of the day in Cal's backfield, each recording two sacks and giving Maynard little time to throw.
"I just watched them make plays and I took my shuffle steps and clapped for them," linebacker Brandon Magee said. "They kind of dominated the front the whole game. The D-line has been our focal point for the first five games."
Maynard was inaccurate when he did have time. He finished 9 for 28 for 126 yards with a touchdown. Isi Sofele rushed for 105 yards and a touchdown.
"We couldn't get in a rhythm and couldn't get anything going," Tedford said. "We got physically beat up front. We didn't really have much time to throw the football."
Cal also was hurt by 12 penalties for 119 yards.
Despite a strong day from Kelly, Arizona State was unable to pull away. The Sun Devils settled for field goal attempts on five drives deep into Cal territory. Alex Garoutte made only two of them, with Nick Forbes blocking a 37-yard attempt early in the fourth to keep the lead at 20-10.
Cal responded with an 80-yard scoring drive that featured a 44-yard run by C.J. Anderson and a 10-yard TD pass from Maynard to his brother, Keenan Allen, to make it 20-17.
Kelly responded with a 74-yard drive, completing 4 of 5 passes for 45 yards, capped by a 22-yarder to Ozier to make it 27-17 with 6:17 to play.
"We just needed to execute on third down and play smart," Kelly said. "We had to go down and get a score because it was a crucial part of the game. Everybody kind of clicked and stepped up."
Cal got booed off the field after falling behind 17-7 at the half. The Bears' offense produced nothing outside of a three-play, 76-yard drive that made the score 7-7 early in the second quarter. Maynard threw a 44-yard pass to Allen to start the drive, and Sofele capped it with a 24-yard run.
Cal had 63 yards of offense and one completion on its other seven drives in the first half against the Sun Devils' stingy defense. Sutton and Carl Bradford each had three tackles behind the line in the first half.
The Sun Devils scored early in the half on Rogers' first catch of the season, a 1-yarder from Kelly. They then capitalized on a fumble by Sofele to score on Kelly's 9-yard pass to Ozier with 53 seconds remaining.
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