Kelly Fulfills His Touchdown Promise

FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas strong safety Randy Kelly made the promise a few days before the Vanderbilt game. It took him a little more than a week to fulfill it.

"You'll know when I get my hands on the football," Kelly said, "Because I'm going to take it to the house for a touchdown."

At the time, it seemed like wishful thinking. But sure enough, Kelly came through Saturday when he saw "nothing but green" after scooping up a fumble by Alabama quarterback John Parker Wilson toward the end of the third quarter.

Kelly picked up the loose ball, avoided getting tripped and sprinted 39 yards to give Arkansas a much-needed touchdown in the 24-23 double-overtime win in Reynolds Razorback Stadium.

Coincidentally, Kelly's touchdown came when Arkansas' defense got its long-awaited first turnover of the season.

"Anytime I touch the ball I try to make it to the end zone, no matter how I get it or how the ball comes to me," Kelly said Monday. "As long as the ball is in my hands, I'm going to try to make it to the end zone, no matter what."

Kelly was all over the field Saturday, reeking havoc on the Crimson Tide's offense and "having fun" as his mother and sister had told him to do before the game.

The 6-foot, 185-pound senior recorded a career-high 16 tackles in 68 plays on defense. Along with the 39-yard fumble return, he had 1.5 tackles for loss, a half sack and a pass breakup.

Not bad for a guy who couldn't even get on the field a week earlier in a 21-19 win at Vanderbilt.

For his efforts against Alabama, Kelly was named Monday as the Southeastern Conference's defensive player of the week. He becomes the first Razorback to earn the honor since linebacker Tony Bua in 2003.

"Randy did well. Randy had 68 plays, but the key is he had 16 tackles," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He had 16 tackles and, of course, our first turnover of the year — a scoop and score. I was glad to see that, that was points we needed desperately."

What made Kelly's dominant play even more impressive was that it came a week after he sat out most of the Vanderbilt win.

Kelly said he played only three snaps against the Commodores because Arkansas defensive coordinator Reggie Herring wanted to use four cornerbacks and only one safety to try to disrupt Vanderbilt's passing game.

As a result, Kelly didn't record a single tackle in the victory.

"You've just got to roll with the punches," Kelly said. "Sometimes, the ball doesn't bounce your way, like I say. It didn't bounce my way against Vandy, but it did bounce my way against Alabama."


Kelly got a chance to pick up the fumble Saturday after he rushed toward Wilson on a safety blitz. But Arkansas defensive end Antwain Robinson got to the quarterback first, knocking the football loose.

Kelly said he saw the ball in front of him, scooped it up and ran untouched for his second-career touchdown. His first score came in last season's 28-17 win at Ole Miss when he returned an interception 42 yards.

Granted, Kelly had to wait a few moments to see if his fumble recovery would hold up. Officials reviewed the play to see if Wilson's arm was moving forward on a pass attempt when he had the ball stripped by Robinson.

The touchdown stood, fulfilling Kelly's promise to score as soon as he got his hands on the football. It also gave him a one-up on free safety Michael Grant.

Kelly and Grant are constantly competing to see which one will get the first turnover in practice and in a game. Kelly won this time.

"I said a couple of things to him just to let him know that I got the first turnover," Kelly said, "and there will be plenty more to get."

That, he promises.

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