Chad Kelly poised and confident in Ole Miss road victory over Alabama
Before Chad Kelly won the starting quarterback job for Ole Miss, he watched hours and hours of film on Alabama in the offseason, taking note that the Crimson Tide’s base defense was cover 2.
Confident Kelly took what the Tide defense gave him
Throughout Saturday night’s showdown against one of last year’s college football playoff teams, Kelly stayed the course and used the advice his uncle, former NFL Hall of Famer quarterback Jim Kelly, once told him: “Just take what the defense gives you.”
And the junior college transfer did exactly that–and more–to give the 15th-ranked Rebels the 43-37 win inside Bryant-Denny Stadium over No. 2-ranked Alabama. Kelly didn’t panic each time the Crimson Tide’s defensive line came roaring his way, and he didn’t hang his head after a 6 of 14, 36-yard first-half performance.
Kelly wasn’t even nervous about playing in his first big Division 1 football game against a Southeastern Conference powerhouse program like Alabama. Instead, he rose to the challenge and put on a first-class performance in the second half, completing 12 of 19 passes for 305 yards and three touchdown passes to Cody Core, Laquon Treadwell and Quincy Adeboyejo.
The 73-yard pass to Core, who was wide open down the right sideline, then Kelly’s 24-yard flag pass to Treadwell were the finishing touches the Rebels needed to defeat the Crimson Tide (2-1, 0-1 SEC) and put them on notice in the stout SEC West.
Kelly and teammates remained poised inside Bryant-Denny
Kelly, who had a rushing touchdown in the second quarter that put Ole Miss (3-0, 1-0 SEC) up 17-3, knew what type of atmosphere he and his teammates were walking into, and also knew the raucous crowd of 101,821, draped in crimson and white, was looking for payback from last season’s 23-17 loss to the Rebels in Oxford.
But the Rebels’ signal-caller stayed poised in the pocket and made one big play after another to ensure Ole Miss would walk out victorious.
“It was loud, but I don’t think it threw us off our game, but it was definitely loud,” Kelly said about the atmosphere inside Bryant-Denny Stadium. “But I am so thankful baby, so thankful.”
Kelly is probably more thankful after his deflected pass on a 3rd and 1 on the team’s 34 landed in Adeboyejo’s hands for the 66-yard score, which gave the Rebels a two-touchdown lead early in the third quarter. On the play, Kelly bobbled a high snap and threw it in the air toward a pair of Alabama defenders who were all over Treadwell. The ball was then tipped and somehow landed in the hands of Adeboyejo, who was all alone at midfield and was able to stride into the end zone.
Kelly wasn’t surprised by Adeboyejo’s catch and said he figured the 6-foot-3 receiver could “jump the highest out of anybody, and I just gave him a chance.”
Adeboyejo finished the night with two receptions for 71 yards. The desperation fling, turned touchdown, was Adeboyejo’s fifth touchdown reception of the season.
“Right after that you think, ‘Hey, we’re winning this,” Kelly said. “And that’s exactly how we all thought, that this was our game.”
Win over the Tide not a surprise to Freeze and his players
All week long Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze had his team believing it could go to Tuscaloosa, Alabama and duplicate last season’s magic and be right back in the talks of a division title and college football playoff berth.
Now, the believing is starting to turn into reality.
“We certainly think we’re at point now where it’s not a shock,” Freeze said. “I still say it would be an upset in most people’s eyes to do it here.”
“I don’t think it surprises the people in our locker room,” he said in the post game press conference early Sunday morning. Our pregame was as short as it’s ever been. I said, ‘You’re good enough to win.’”
Saturday night’s victory over the Crimson Tide was the Rebels’ first win in Tuscaloosa since 1988; it was also the first time Ole Miss has won back-to-back games against Alabama in the two schools’ history.