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ORLANDO – Understandably, not one Ole Miss Football player had a smile on his face during the postgame interviews after Monday night’s 45-34 defeat to No. 4 Florida State. Chad Kelly, Terry Caldwell and Evan Engram met with the media, and each one tried to find the correct words to explain what happened in the loss.
But each one also made it clear the team will get back to work, fix their mistakes and move forward in a season that can still be a very successful one. Senior quarterback Chad Kelly, the consummate leader, took full responsibility for the performance of the Rebels’ offense. Without hesitation, he pointed out some of his hasty passes – three of which were interceptions.
The Buffalo, New York native, who finished the game with 313 yards passing and four touchdowns on 21-for-39 passing, said he knows it is his job to better manage the game, especially when Ole Miss is holding a large lead as the team did against Florida State.
With 3:04 left in the second quarter, the Rebels led 28-6 and Kelly looked as if he picked up where he left off last season. Senior tight end Evan Engram was getting wide open in the Seminoles’ man-to-man defense. At that point, Kelly had completed 14-of-23 passes for 215 yards and three touchdowns (one interception). He was 4-for-5 for 59 yards on the team’s first scoring drive, then completed all four of his passes for 42 yards on Ole Miss’ second scoring drive.
Engram caught one of the touchdowns, putting himself at No. 4 on the career list for touchdowns by a Rebel tight end. All seemed well for Ole Miss at that point.
As for the Ole Miss’ defense, it sacked FSU’s true freshman quarterback Deondre Francois three times (twice by DeMarquis Gates, once by Benito Jones). Francois, whose ended with 420 passing yards for the second most ever by a Seminole freshman since Jameis Winston, was also rushed into some bad throws in the first half, at times throwing the football to his receiver’s feet.
FSU’s best offensive effort came from its special teams with field goals of 25 and 21 from freshman kicker Ricky Aguayo, who went 6 for 6 for the night. With 28 seconds left before halftime, Francois connected with wide receiver Travis Rudolph for the 16-yard touchdown to close the gap to 28-13.
Unfortunately for Ole Miss, after suffering some key injuries in the first half, the Rebels could only watch as the Seminoles caught fire, outscoring Ole Miss 23-0 to take the 36-28 lead. First, Aguayo nailed a 40-yard field goal. Then, Marcus Lewis picked off Kelly, resulting in a one-yard rushing touchdown from senior fullback Freddie Stevenson, capping off a 3-play, 32-yard scoring drive.
And while FSU was red hot in the third quarter, the Rebels didn’t complete a pass (0-for-5) and Kelly was sacked twice.
After Kelly’s fumble on 2nd-and-9 from the 16, FSU took the lead when Whitfield rushed for three yards into the left corner of the end zone. From there, the Seminoles had most of the momentum — even though the Rebels mounted a rally late when they closed the gap early in the final quarter to 39-34 off a 20-yard TD pass from Kelly to redshirt freshman receiver Van Jefferson.
FSU playing in four different types of defenses (cover one, cover two, zone, man-to-man) didn’t disturb Kelly, who said it was just up to him to execute better.
Feature image credit: John Bown, Rebels247
Courtney is from Memphis and received his Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts from the University of Memphis in May of 2014. He began his journalism career covering the Memphis Tigers Men’s basketball team, which landed him an intern position on 730 Yahoo Sports Radio and a position with Rivals.com. A freelance writer for the Associated Press, Courtney is also a member of The Rebel Walk team and reports regularly on Ole Miss football and basketball. Courtney, the father of a six-year old girl named Soniyah, prefers to cover NCAA basketball and football, but is happy to report on any other sport that comes his way.