True to his word, Hugh Freeze played all three of his quarterbacks against UT Martin (though not all at the same time, unfortunately). And as you'd expect against an FCS defense, all three guys put up solid numbers:
Chad Kelly: 9-of-15 passing for 211 yards, two TDs and one pick (91.7 QBR)*; one carry for 20 yards and a TD
Ryan Buchanan: 4-of-6 passing for 58 yards and two TDs (99.6 QBR)
DeVante Kincade: 6-of-7 passing for 56 yards and one TD (97.2 QBR); three carries for 24 yards
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But even though Swag played the first three drives and out-passed his fellow QBs by roughly 150 yards, Freeze is sticking to his "this is still a competition" shtick: "I know this isn't probably the answer that everyone wants to hear, but I like all three right now," he said during his Monday presser. "Time will tell."
But we saw all we needed last Saturday. The game confirmed what we already presumed: Kelly is the strong-armed vertical threat who can stretch the defense, Buchanan will have to crawl his way downfield one intermediate route at a time and Kincade isn't suited for much more than screen passes and situational read-option plays.
* If you take away three drops (two from Laquon Treadwell), Kelly's numbers look a lot better: 12-of-15 passing for ≈242 yards, two touchdowns and no picks
Swag was the only one that threw downfield
I went to the tape and noted the distance each pass travelled in the air (since this is a measurement of downfield throwing, I measured from the line of scrimmage to where the receiver caught the ball. I didn't measure horizontal distance -- a screen pass counts as zero yards). Eight of Swag's 15 pass attempts went at least 10 yards and five of them were 20-plus; just four of Buchanan and Kincade's combined 13 attempts went beyond 10 and both guys' longest was 16.
And Chad wasn't just floating these passes up -- these things were low altitude missiles. This first-quarter touchdown strike to Markell Pack took just 2.3 seconds to travel 41 yards.
Chad Kelly to Markell Pack for a 56-yard TD, VIDEO: http://t.co/aqWtRa7tt1— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) September 5, 2015
Even more impressive was his first toss of the game, a 25-yard out route ... to the far sideline ... with a defender preventing him from following through the throwing motion.
The Rebs' previously hapless run game isn't always going to look as good as it did against UT Martin, so pushing the safeties back with the long ball is going to be critical to the improvement of the ground attack. Chad Kelly can do that. The other guys can't.
Kincade got more action than Buchanan
If you didn't watch the game, it might surprise you to learn that Kincade, a guy who's almost assuredly going to end up as third string, played 16 more snaps than Buchanan, who's going to be the primary backup. Does that mean Freeze is rethinking the depth chart? Probably not.
For starters, Kincade spent most of his time giving the ball to a running back. He handed off on 18 of his 28 snaps, most of which came as the Rebs were milking the clock in the second half. And when he did throw, it was usually just a dumpoff -- four of his seven attempts didn't go beyond the line of scrimmage (Buchanan only had one such pass).
The other thing is that despite technically being at the bottom of depth chart, Kincade is probably going to see a lot more playing time than Buchanan, since Kincade will get action in Brunetti-esque packaged plays meant to take advantage of his running ability.
However, we didn't actually get to see Kincade run that much; he kept the ball just three times. Freeze explained in his presser that "because of the way the game was going, we probably didn't get to see him make too many reads." But I think Freeze still wanted to get Kincade some extra reps gauging the defense on the read-option, even though the read was pre-ordained.
And Freeze was also able to get this play on the tape reels of every defensive coordinator in the conference:
September 9, 2015
That play proves that if you sell out to stop the run when Kincade comes onto the field, he can make you pay. That touchdown should go a long way in making sure defenses stay at least somewhat honest when he comes in for those short-yardage situations.