Kelly the Playmaker

Ole Miss quarterback Chad Kelly is at his best when the lights come on. Game time.

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It’s the playmaker in him.

“In practice you’ve got coaches that are behind you, you’ve got them talking every play and this and that,” he said. “But when you’re in a game, you’ve got to go and make a play. Every play is a play that has to be made. If something breaks down, you’ve got to do what you know to do.

"That’s all I’ve known to do is go make plays.”

He certainly made his fair share a week ago against UT-Martin.

The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Kelly completed 9 of 15 passes for 211 yards, two touchdowns and an interception in a 76-3 Ole Miss win, and he added a 20-yard scoring run as well. Kelly started the game and played the majority of the series compared to Ryan Buchanan and Devante Kincade, a pair of redshirt sophomores Kelly has battled in a tight quarterback race for the better part of seven months.

“Anytime you score 76 points it’s a good day,” Kelly said. The 76 points were the most since a 92-0 win over West Tennessee Teachers (now Memphis) in 1935.

“I thought all of us did really well from a quarterback perspective. I missed on a couple of throws, but there’s always room for improvement. I thought the offensive line did a great job, protected well. I don’t think we gave up any sacks. Not many negative plays either, if any. Wide receivers did a great job getting open. As time goes on, we’ll gain more chemistry with each other, which will be good in the long run. I’m just excited we were able to get out and have a great victory.”

Head coach Hugh Freeze said Monday he can envision a scenario where all three quarterbacks see regular action this season. That was news to Kelly, who is again slated to start when the Rebels kick off against Fresno State Saturday at 2:30 p.m.

“I have not heard that, but I know all three of us will be ready,” he said. “We come to work every day as if we’re all three the starter. Anytime you can have a guy that’s pushing you right next to you every day, it’s just going to make you better.

“As you saw, there was no drop-off when the other guys got in there. What more can you ask for when you go out and the other guy does just what you were expecting everybody else to do? You can never go wrong with that. Everybody did a great job this week, and I know we’re going to continue pushing each other because that’s how everyone gets better. I’m excited.”

No matter who is under center, the Rebels will look to continue their success on the ground - an area they struggled with at times last season. Ole Miss totaled 662 yards of total offense in its season-opening win, including 338 rushing yards - a quarterback’s best friend.

“Anytime you can run the ball at will, really, it gives you a lot of options to open up the playbook and kind of keep the defense on their heels, knowing that you can still throw a deep ball and throw it around a little bit,” Kelly said. “Our offensive line did a great job pass protecting, run blocking. I’m just excited what (Fresno State) has to bring.”

Fresno State defeated Abilene Christian 34-13 in its most-recent action. The Bulldogs are now 27-14 under head coach Tim DeRuyter, including a 6-8 record and Hawaii Bowl berth in 2014.

“Every game’s going to be a competition,” Kelly said. “We play great teams every week. Just being out there with the guys and competing in practice and in the games, every day is a work day.”

Especially on game day, when Kelly flips the switch.

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