If quarterback Chad Kelly has it his way, that’ll be Saturday against No. 12 Georgia.
The Rebels host the Bulldogs at 11 a.m. CT on ESPN, in search of their second win of the 2016 campaign. But perhaps more importantly, they’re hoping to rid themselves of the disappointment of becoming the first Power Five team in 10 years to blow two 21-point leads.
“You’ve just got to come to practice every day ready to work,” Kelly said. “That’s where it all starts, whether it’s putting in extra time in the film room, whether it’s putting in extra time in the meeting room or out there on the field. Biggest thing is we’re in all these football games. We play a good 30 minutes, but we have to come out and finish. Those last 30 minutes are a mentality thing. It starts with practice, and we’ve got to make sure we finish strong.”
Kelly leads the SEC with 10 passing touchdowns (a school record through three games) and 60 points responsible for. He’s top two in the SEC and top 25 nationally in total offense (343.0 yards per game), passing (317.7 ypg), yards per attempt (8.91) and yards per completion (14.2).
However, his turnovers have been costly. He’s been intercepted three times through three games, and he’s fumbled twice. Both of his two miscues in the Rebels’ 48-43 loss to Alabama resulted in touchdowns. Ole Miss is 1-2 on the year.
So when he speaks of finishing, he certainly means himself, too.
“You have to go out every series thinking take care of the ball,” he said. “We have to make sure every series ends in a kick, whether it’s an extra point, a field goal or a punt. I have to take it upon myself to keep putting it in my head to take care of the ball.”
Georgia enters play 3-0 on the season, including a 1-0 mark in the SEC. The Bulldogs have put together second-half comebacks in each of their games.
Just what Ole Miss wants to hear, right?
“They’re big, athletic,” Kelly said. “They play really smart. I think that’s a compliment to their head coach and their defensive coordinator. They do a really good job of staying in the right place. We have to make sure we play hard and keep the turnovers down. I think we’ll be all right.”
On going fast being a detriment to the defense: “That’s our offense. We like to go fast. Of course you don’t ever want to go three-and-out. Sometimes, I hate to say it, we might need to slow it down so our defense doesn’t have to be on the field for the three parts of each quarter. But coach wants us to go fast, and I’m going to keep running the offense the way he wants to. But it comes down to taking care of the football. If we go down and score, the defense is happy, just as everybody else is happy. Just gotta take care of the football, execute every play to perfection. I heard someone quote or saying something about we’re just a bunch of football players trying to be perfectionists. That’s what you try to do is be perfect every play because one play could be the deciding factor in the whole game.”
On A.J. Brown: “I think his mentality has definitely changed. He understands he can play this game at a fast level. He’s a very good player, he’s athletic. He can make plays. As long as he goes out there and doesn’t have to think, he’s going to be a very, very good player, which he’s already shown he’s a good player. We have to keep getting him more involved in the offense. I hate to say it, but I love the five wide because we have such good athletes out there and our line is able to see so much more when we call five-man protections and this and that. But we have playmakers all over the field and even the running backs can catch, too. We have to get everybody more involved and understand the offense more and more if we do go that five wide.”
On not being able to run: “The first drive (against Alabama), we went down and scored, blah, blah, this and that. Next series, the first play of that second series was a little miscommunication between me and the center. That right there puts us behind the sticks. It’s second-and-15 now. Against a team like Alabama, you can’t win like that. Maybe against some other team you can win, but against them it’s not going to happen. We have to make sure we get ahead on those first downs and second downs to make sure we put ourselves in third-and-manageable where we can get that first down. It starts with practice. We have to pick the intensity up and really finish and make sure we’re really on top of each other this week.”
On Van Jefferson: “I think he’s just a very good athlete. He’s a very good athlete. He can run routes very well. He’s been very well-coached. His dad’s an NFL coach already. There’s a reason he’s able to make plays like that as a redshirt freshman. He’s a very good player. He’s smart, he’s instinctive and he can make plays. As long as we keep getting what he’s putting in, we’ll be very good.”