Chad Kelly has unquestionably been Ole Miss’ best player this season, and when the star quarterback went to the locker room with a knee injury in the third quarter, it seemed like all the people in the stadium collectively held their breath. Kelly wouldn’t return to the field, with redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin taking over at quarterback.
Head Coach Hugh Freeze said it was too early to know what the injury was and that Kelly would get an MRI to find out on Sunday.
“I didn’t see it, because it wasn’t a run play or anything. He just, after he stepped and threw it, somebody rolled into him,” Freeze said. “He said it’s on the outside part of his knee, which is typically not the worst of cases, but we won’t know until the MRI.”
Pellerin ran for 29 yards on four carries while filling in for Kelly, but he only completed one of his five passes for 19 yards and interception. Freeze thought Pellerin did a nice job in the victory.
“I thought he threw two really nice balls, one to A.J. (Brown) and one to Evan. Both should’ve been caught, I thought,” Freeze said. “So I thought he managed the game well enough to get us to the end with the victory.”
“You just have to see how the week goes,” Freeze said. “Obviously he would get all the reps, getting ready if that’s the case, but we’ll cross that bridge when it comes, but you’ll have confidence to do whatever you’re practicing next week for sure.”
Pellerin said that practice would be business as usual for him, as he always had to prepare with the possibility of playing for an extended amount of time during the game.
“Just have to do your job,” Pellerin said. “I’ll do whatever coach asks me to do and just have to prepare the right way, but I feel good going into it. Just have to prepare throughout the week and get the confidence up.”
Pellerin has seen limited time running the full offense for the Rebels, but he has played well in a jumbo package specifically designed for running, similar to the one Ole Miss ran with backup quarterback Barry Brunetti during Freeze’s first two years with the program. It’s been used in the red zone frequently, as Pellerin has rushed 25 times for 96 yards and three touchdowns on the season and has completed five of his 13 passes for 53 yards, two touchdowns and three interceptions.
While the sample size for Pellerin in college is limited, in high school he completed 63 of 111 passes for 1,099 yards and 13 touchdowns and rushed for 1,103 yards and 28 touchdowns his senior year.
Running back Akeem Judd said the team had great faith in Pellerin.
“He’s a great quarterback. He just needed his opportunity,” Judd said. “He just needed to get comfortable, just like any other player, so we have great faith in him.”
Freeze broke down the team’s backup plan if Kelly wasn’t able to return next week, saying that it would be very difficult to pull freshman quarterback Shea Patterson’s redshirt this late in the year.
“You hope you recruited some people behind your starter, and obviously we’ve got one here that we think is going to be really good also, but it’s three games left in the season, and you certainly don’t want to pull that redshirt,” Freeze said.
Freeze could even look outside the team for depth at quarterback with a former player who still has eligibility.
“Maybe we’ll see if Ryan Buchanan wants to dress this week, in all seriousness,” Freeze said.
Senior defensive end and Chucky Mullins award recipient John Youngblood also suffered an ankle injury, which Freeze said was dislocated. It’s unlikely he will see the field again in his Ole Miss career.