The school announced Sunday that the senior suffered a torn ACL and torn lateral meniscus during the Rebels' 37-27 win over Georgia Southern on Saturday. He will undergo season-ending surgery this coming week.
Kelly, whose uncle and godfather is NFL Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly, accounted for 249 yards of total offense and three touchdowns in Saturday's victory, but hobbled off the field in the third quarter while favoring his right knee and did not return. Redshirt freshman Jason Pellerin replaced Kelly, completing 1 of 5 passes for 19 yards and an interception. He also ran the ball four times for 29 yards.
While Pellerin has been Kelly's primary backup this season, completing 5 of 13 passes for 53 yards and two touchdowns with three interceptions, the Rebels' signed No. 1 dual-threat quarterback prospect Shea Patterson in their 2016 recruiting class.
The coaching staff was hoping to redshirt Patterson in 2016, but with Kelly out for the rest of the season, Patterson's redshirt could get lifted in time for the final three games of the regular season.
Coach Hugh Freeze is expected to address his plans for the quarterback position during his Monday news conference.
The loss of Kelly is a major blow to an Ole Miss team that is teetering on the edge of bowl eligibility. The Rebels (4-5, 1-4 SEC) play Saturday at No. 4 Texas A&M (7-2, 4-2 SEC), which is also awaiting the health status of starting quarterback Trevor Knight (shoulder). The Rebels need to win two games to become bowl-eligible for the fifth season in a row. Kelly's absence means the Rebels will be without their No. 1 offensive weapon going forward.
Kelly has accounted for an SEC-high 3,090 yards of offense this year, including a league-leading 2,758 passing yards (306.4 yards per game) and 19 passing touchdowns. Kelly is second on the team with 332 rushing yards and is tied for the team lead with five rushing scores. Kelly also has 11 turnovers.
In Kelly's first season as the Rebels' starter, in 2015, he earned All-SEC second-team honors after breaking or tying 14 Ole Miss single-season records, including total yards (4,542), passing yards (4,042), passing touchdowns (31), touchdowns responsible for (41), and 300-yard passing games (eight). Kelly's 4,542 total yards and 4,042 passing yards are both third-most in a season in SEC history, while his 41 total touchdowns are tied for seventh all time.
Kelly arrived at Ole Miss in 2015 after transferring from East Mississippi Community College, where he went 12-0 and won the 2014 NJCAA national championship. He was rated the No. 1 juco dual-threat quarterback in the 2015 class after throwing for 3,906 yards with 47 touchdowns and eight interceptions. Kelly also rushed for 446 yards and four more scores. His 47 touchdowns tied for most in the nation and his 3,906 yards ranked second.
Kelly's journey to EMCC started after he was dismissed from Clemson in April 2014 for conduct detrimental to the team after being in a three-way tie for the starting QB job with Cole Stoudt and then true freshman Deshaun Watson. During the Tigers' spring game, Kelly got into a verbal altercation with coaches at halftime over a decision to punt on fourth-and-short and was benched for the rest of the game.
That wasn't the last time Kelly would find himself in trouble. Days after committing to Ole Miss, he was arrested for fighting bouncers and resisting arrest outside a Buffalo, New York, nightclub in December. He eventually pleaded guilty to a noncriminal charge of disorderly conduct and agreed to 50 hours of community service.
"I ran into some trouble in Buffalo, not thinking correctly at times, and I almost cost myself a chance at getting back to where I wanted to be," Kelly told ESPN in 2015.
However, Kelly has stayed out of trouble while at Ole Miss, though he made news in early October when he went onto the field after a brawl erupted at his brother's high school football game between St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute and Bishop Timon-St. Jude High School in upstate New York. The fight began after his brother, Casey Kelly, took a late hit, their mother told ESPN's Greg Ostendorf. Bishop Timon-St. Jude players were then "stomping on Case and throwing haymakers," Charlene Kelly said.
According to Charlene Kelly, Chad Kelly ran onto the field to make sure his brother was OK. Video shows Chad Kelly being restrained by several coaches.
Kelly's on-field performances helped turn Ole Miss into an SEC contender in 2015. He became the first quarterback to lead Ole Miss to five victories over top-25 teams and to wins over Alabama, Auburn and LSU in the same season. He also registered the most wins by a first-year starting quarterback at Ole Miss (10) since Jake Gibbs in 1959.
Kelly was named a 2016 preseason first-team All-SEC member, while the Rebels began the year ranked No. 11, but have since fallen out of the top 25, losing three of their last four games.