Former Red Lion QB Kelly has huge game in Ole Miss triumph
OXFORD, Miss. — Chad Kelly's brilliant passing performance provided evidence that Mississippi's quarterback race has ended.
Now the junior has the Rebels' offense on quite a roll heading into next week's Southeastern Conference showdown with Alabama.
Kelly, a former Red Lion High School quarterback, threw for 346 yards and four touchdowns, including three of them to Quincy Adeboyejo, to lead No. 17 Ole Miss over Fresno State 73-21 on Saturday.
"I thought it was a really solid day for him," coach Hugh Freeze said of his quarterback.
That's probably an understatement. Kelly was nearly perfect, completing 20 of 25 passes, leading the Rebels to seven touchdowns on all seven of his drives.
Kelly was starting his second straight game after winning what Freeze called a close quarterback race during preseason camp against Ryan Buchanan and DeVante Kincade.
He was sharp from the outset, leading the Rebels to a 28-0 lead after one quarter.
Ole Miss (2-0) had two interceptions in the third quarter that ended any hope of a Fresno State comeback. Trae Elston's was returned for a 38-yard touchdown, which was his second straight game with an interception return for a score.
Ole Miss finished with 607 total yards.
"The sky's the limit (for the offense)," Kelly said. "We just have to make sure we're on the same page the whole game. Don't turn it over. If we keep playing the way we're doing, it's going to be a special season."
Fresno State's Chason Virgil completed 12 of 18 passes for 140 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions. Marteze Waller ran for 91 yards.
It was another brilliant offensive display by the Rebels, who scored 76 points in their opener against UT Martin last week. The 149 points over a two-game stretch are the most in school history.
Adeboyejo caught five passes for 120 yards and his three touchdowns.
"Chad — his deep balls are one of the better ones I've ever encountered," Adeboyejo said. "He's got really good touch on them."
Robert Nkemdiche, who usually plays on the defensive line, scored a touchdown for the second straight game. This one was a 1-yard run in the third quarter.
Kelly left little doubt about the quarterback race with a productive first half that included 305 yards passing and four touchdowns. He also ran for a 4-yard touchdown.
The 6-foot-2, 215-pound junior showed his touch on a 14-yard touchdown pass to Cody Core in the corner of the end zone and then flashed good arm strength on three straight touchdown throws to Adeboyejo, who scored from 16, 50 and 44 yards out.
While Kelly was nearly perfect, his backups were not. Kincade had some decent moments but looked uncomfortable in the passing game. Fresno State's Shannon Edwards picked off a Buchanan pass and ran 56 yards for the touchdown.
That was the first of a few gaffes that allowed Fresno State (1-1) a brief chance to get back into the game. The Bulldogs pulled within 35-14 by halftime.
After Ole Miss' Carlos Davis fumbled a punt deep in Rebels territory, Fresno State looked like it might pull within two scores. But C.J. Johnson, an Ole Miss linebacker, intercepted a Virgil pass and ran it back 70 yards to set up another Rebels touchdown and the rout was just getting started.
Ole Miss starting left tackle Laremy Tunsil sat out a second straight game because of an NCAA investigation.
The Rebels announced that the 6-foot-5, 305-pound Tunsil would not play about 45 minutes before its game against Fresno State on Saturday. The school released a statement saying Tunsil "will not play and that status will continue until the matter is resolved."
Ole Miss cornerback Tee Shepard was ejected for targeting in the third quarter.