On Saturday, we saw two of the SEC’s best gunslingers go at it in Ole Miss’ Chad Kelly and Arkansas’ Austin Allen. The two combined for 571 yards, which was 68 percent of the total yards in this game, and were both the main factors in who came out on top.
Arkansas came away with the 34-30 win, but did one of these signal callers outplay the other? Both gave us plenty of highlights to look back on, so let’s see:
From the pocket
Allen got things started early with this 51-yard bomb in the Hogs’ second series. We saw Arkansas try to stretch the field like this with Brandon Allen last season, but it’s becoming obvious that Austin Allen is the one with the superior arm.
That arm strength was also evident on Allen’s second touchdown throw. In the play above, we saw Allen zip the ball in there so hard he almost overthrew his receiver. Allen finished the game with 229 passing yards and 3 touchdowns. These first two TDs displayed his arm strength, and plays like those should send a message to teams that want to stack the box versus Arkansas; Allen can make them pay over the top.
However, Kelly couldn’t let Allen have all the fun through the air on Saturday. Kelly finished with 253 passing yards and a touchdown. The play above wasn’t a scoring play, but it was probably my favorite throw of his. Kelly might not have the arm to get the ball down the field distance-wise (we’ll get to that later), but he is still able to put good velocity on short and intermediate passes when he steps into them.
In the play above, he rifled the ball high and to the spot only his receiver could get it. Ole Miss receivers have been putting on a show this year. This was another great highlight-reel grab.
On the ground
If you were keeping track at home, you probably noticed that Allen’s 229 passing yards and Kelly’s 253 passing yards do not total the 571 yards I mentioned in the opening paragraph that made up 68 percent of the total yards gained. That is because Kelly not only led his team in passing but rushing, too.
Kelly finished with 89 rushing yards and 2 touchdowns. I try to avoid this statement because it has such a negative connotation with it (for good reason), but Kelly really is surprising in how athletic he is.
When you watch his mannerisms from the pocket, he looks like a true pocket passer; I think he would much rather beat teams with his arm than his feet. But part of what makes Kelly such a unique quarterback is that he can drop that style in a split second and take off for important scrambles, like the ones above and below:
As seen by having more than double the yards the starting running back produced, Kelly’s legs are a much-needed weapon for the Rebels. If Allen had the better game through the air, Kelly certainly had the better game on the ground.
The turnover battle
Both of these quarterbacks had blemishes. Both ended the game with interceptions on their stat sheets, and they weren’t pretty ones either — if there is such a thing.
Kelly’s (above) was a pass we’ve seen too often from him. I noted earlier that despite having limited arm strength, Kelly can still get good velocity on certain passes. But, when he tries to dial up the distance like in the play above, the ball often loses speed quickly and ends up being underthrown. Kelly’s mistake was a predictable one, unfortunately.
Allen’s interception was a product of good pressure by the defense. Ole Miss called for a blitz on third down, and Allen made a throw that was right to a defender. There was a player coming around his back for the sack, but even then, I’m not sure he would’ve been able to get that ball up and over the defender. That was a tight window.
Kelly and Allen both threw for more than 200 yards. They both recorded 3 total touchdowns and both had one interception. Only one category separated these two, and it ended up being the most important one. If you look toward the bottom of a stat sheet, you’ll see a category called “fumbles lost,” and in that category you’ll see one for Allen and two for Kelly.
The play above was the final play for Ole Miss offense, and the final stat that separated these two in a great quarterback duel. Kelly tried to convert a fourth-and-16 with his legs and came up just short, losing the ball in the process.
The was a fun one to watch live, and just as much fun to go back and analyze on film. These teams have quarterbacks who can score 30-plus points on almost any defense in the country.