|Kelly shakes off injury to spur No. 3 OU's offensive outburst|
|Written by Admin|
|Thursday, 13 September 2007 23:55|
Oklahoma's top receiver was sidelined by a knee injury after the Sooners fell behind early in the Fiesta Bowl, and the images of the Broncos' 43-42 overtime win seemed to be everywhere as he recovered through spring practice and into the fall.
``I keep watching all those replays and keep watching that game knowing that I could have had a chance to change the outcome of the game if I would have played,'' said Kelly, who drew a pass interference call but didn't make a catch in the game. ``It's something that drove me during the offseason.
``But now that's all behind me. I'm just trying to make sure that we can keep this thing rolling that we've got going.''
Kelly has been a big part of Oklahoma's offensive outburst to start the season. The third-ranked Sooners (2-0) are second in the nation with a 65-point scoring average - with one point less than Louisville through two games - and Kelly's five touchdown catches tie him for the most in the nation with Texas Tech's Michael Crabtree and New Mexico State's Chris Williams.
And Kelly's five scores have come on only eight receptions. He's averaging 27.5 yards per catch and has 220 yards receiving heading into Saturday's game against Utah State (0-2).
``I'll take it any way I can. Luckily it's just been going that way for me right now,'' Kelly said. ``I just try to make sure I go out and go hard during the week so at game time those plays will come.''
It took Kelly some time to get past his injury. After sitting out all of spring practice, the 6-foot-4 Texan still wasn't feeling confident enough to test the knee until about two weeks into two-a-days this fall.
``It's just a mind-set. When you injure yourself, you kind of think about it and that's really how you get hurt again is thinking about the injury instead of going full speed,'' said Kelly, a junior.
After finally shaking off the rust, Kelly is off to one of the fastest starts for a receiver in school history. He's already one-third of the way to Mark Clayton's season record of 15 touchdown receptions. He led the team with 10 TDs last season.
``He's going to make those plays. You get the ball around him, and he's going to catch it,'' said Kevin Sumlin, the Sooners' co-offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach.
The difference so far this season is that Sumlin sees Kelly becoming a better route-runner, asserting himself more physically and improving his footwork, body language and hand placement.
``He's really working on the depth of his route and just how he does things. That comes with experience,'' Sumlin said. ``When you first figure out what to do, you're just doing it. Now he's really working at how he's getting things done, how to set people up, how to work opposite of what he's really wanting to do and it's really paying off for him.''
Kelly, who emerged as primary target midway through his freshman season, has long shown that he can outrun defenders for the deep ball - as he did on a 65-yard TD reception in the Sooners' 79-10 rout of North Texas. But now he's improving how he bursts off the line of scrimmage on slant patterns and how he keeps opponents from knowing what he's about to do.
``You kind of have to fake what you're not going to run,'' Kelly said. ``That's really what I've been trying to focus on. That's what I did all weekend and it worked.''
Kelly scored touchdowns on three of his four catches in Oklahoma's 51-13 win against Miami on Saturday, and he could have been even more efficient if fellow wide receiver Manuel Johnson hadn't underthrown him on a trick play.
``We just kind of laughed it off. I saw it on the JumboTron on the instant replay, and there was nobody within 15 yards of me,'' Kelly said. ``He made that play all during the week, but I guess out there in the game with five people running at him, it kind of switched up on him.''
Instead, all of Kelly's scores have come off the arm of redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Bradford - the third starter in Kelly's three years at Oklahoma. Bradford has thrown eight touchdown passes and only eight incompletions while racking up 568 yards passing in an offense that has even impressed Kelly.
``I knew the whole time that Sam was going to have the talent around him that could go out there and make those plays. I just knew if he came in and he was calm and he played his game, we could get it done,'' Kelly said. ``For us to be doing it the way we've been doing it, I can't say I just figured we would do it like that - especially this early in the season.''