The junior Ole Miss quarterback could break all of the single-season passing records in school history by the time his debut season is over. He leads the SEC in passing yards (3,224), points responsible for (180), total offense (349.6 per game) and touchdown passes (23).
He’s ranked top-11 nationally in all four categories.
But for Kelly, personal accolades can wait. The No. 25 Rebels (7-3, 4-2 SEC) have two games remaining in their season, including a matchup with No. 17 LSU Saturday at 2:30 p.m. on CBS. They’ll close the regular season with the annual Egg Bowl rivalry game at Mississippi State in a week. Kickoff is scheduled for 6:15 p.m. on ESPN2.
“They’re good in all phases of the game - their run defense, their pass defense, linebackers are pretty good,” he said of the Tigers. “Their whole team is really good. It’s going to be a tough challenge for us. We’ve just got to make sure we execute.
“They’ve lost two-straight games. I think they’ll come out for a dog fight. We’re going to have to approach our side of the game the same we do every week, and that’s to go out and match the intensity and bring it every day. Both teams will be ready and anxious to go.”
Ole Miss was off last week, and the bye couldn’t have come at a better time after 10-straight weeks of games. Kelly said he spent much of the weekend watching football. He’s ready to get back on the field.
“After watching football on Saturday, I was in the mood to play football,” he said. “If you can’t refocus after a bye week and get yourself more amped up for the next game, you’re playing the wrong sport. I know all the guys are ready to get back and ready to hit somebody.’’
Ole Miss lost a heartbreaker to Arkansas - a 53-52 overtime affair - in its most-recent action. The team was given the week off following its Wednesday practice before reconvening Sunday.
Kelly said head coach Hugh Freeze “laid it on the line” for the players in practice, emphasizing there’s still plenty to play for. Ole Miss is bowl eligible for the fourth straight season. The last time Ole Miss was bowl eligible for four or more straight years was 1997-2003.
“(Freeze) said if we win the next two, which that’s our goal, we can still be in a New Year’s Six bowl game, and we can still potentially go to the SEC championship game depending on what happens,” Kelly said. “We’ve just got to make sure we come out every day at practice ready to go, stay focused and come out Saturday ready to play.
“Every year, (LSU) is well-coached. They’ve got some great players on both sides of the ball. It’s going to be a tough game, and we’re ready for this opportunity.”
If Ole Miss wins out and Alabama loses one of its final two games, the Rebels will reach Atlanta for their first-ever SEC championship game appearance. While unlikely even with a road trip to Auburn in two weeks, Ole Miss still has a chance, which isn’t lost on Kelly and his teammates.
“You have to make sure you get better every day out on the practice field so it can relate to the game field,” Kelly said. “Losing the type of game we lost, there’s very little margin of error. That goes with both teams. LSU understands they were national contenders two weeks ago. Now look. Both teams are definitely going to bring it. We’ve got to make sure we’re on our ‘A’ game.”
With the way Kelly has been going, bringing his best is almost expected. He totaled 478 yards of offense in the loss to Arkansas, tallying his seventh 300-yard passing game of the season, a school record and third-most on the Ole Miss career chart behind Bo Wallace (11) and Eli Manning (10).
“We got better in the film room,” Kelly said of the bye week. “On the field, there was a lot of intensity. Guys are focused to get back to game flow.”
None more so than Kelly.