Now he's produced one of the best seasons in program history, passing guys like Eli Manning in the school record books in the process.
Kelly threw for 280 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 81 yards and two touchdowns to lead No. 25 Ole Miss over No. 17 LSU 38-17 on Saturday. It was a game dominated by the Rebels except for a short stretch during the third quarter.
"We're rolling," Kelly said. "We're doing a good job."
LSU, on the other hand, was dogged by penalties and mistakes in the embarrassing loss. Now veteran coach Les Miles is facing questions about job security after the program's first three-game losing streak since 1999.
It was another rough day for the Tigers, who were undefeated and in national title contention just three weeks ago. The Tigers have been outscored 99-47 in three straight losses to Alabama, Arkansas and the Rebels.
LSU made mistakes at crucial times on Saturday and often seemed unorganized. The Tigers were penalized 13 times for 95 yards, had three turnovers and fumbled four times, including twice on one series.
Ole Miss (8-3, 5-2 Southeastern Conference, No. 22 CFP) jumped out to a 24-0 by late in the second quarter.
Kelly completed 19 of 34 passes and had no turnovers. The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior — who transferred to Ole Miss last spring from East Mississippi Community College — broke single-season records for total offensive yards (3,857) and total touchdowns (34) on Saturday.
"Chad prepares himself as hard as any quarterback I've ever coached," Freeze said.
LSU (7-3, 4-3, No. 15 CFP) rallied in the third quarter to cut the deficit to 24-17, but the Rebels responded with two quick touchdowns to put the game out of reach.
LSU star running back Leonard Fournette had a decent day, with 108 yards rushing on 25 carries, but his presence was mostly neutralized after the Tigers fell into an early hole and had to throw to try and score points quickly.
"Our goal was to make them one-dimensional," Ole Miss defensive back Mike Hilton said.
Brandon Harris completed 26 of 51 passes for a career-high 324 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions. The 26 completions and 51 attempts were also career highs.
LSU's biggest problem early in the game was mistakes — the Tigers were penalized nine times in the first half, including four times on the opening drive.
"We are out of synch," said Miles, who deflected several questions about his job security. "That's not how we practice. I'm disappointed because I have coaches and players that work very hard. I told them, you have one game left.”
But LSU finally found some momentum just before halftime when Harris hit a wide-open Tyron Johnson for a 39-yard touchdown to pull within 24-7 at the break. As Johnson ran untouched into the end zone, two Ole Miss players in the secondary argued about who blew the coverage.
LSU added a field goal on its first drive of the third quarter and then got a huge break when Ole Miss' Jaylen Walton fumbled on the ensuing kickoff return.
The Tigers recovered at the Ole Miss 25 and scored six plays later when William Clapp recovered a Fournette fumble in the end zone for a touchdown that cut the Ole Miss lead to 24-17.
"It was really scary," Ole Miss tight end Evan Engram said. "But it's SEC West football. Anything can happen. It's going to be a dogfight all 60 minutes — no game is won in 30 minutes."
But the Rebels responded with two more touchdowns by the end of third quarter to push the lead back to 21 points. The second one was on an impressive play call — Kelly started to run right before throwing a short pass back across the field to Evan Engram, who ran nearly untouched for a 36-yard touchdown that put Ole Miss up 38-17.