Chip Kelly finally crosses midfield on the likability meter

I haven’t been much of a Chip Kelly fan since he arrived from Div. I-AA four years ago, but that changed Saturday night.

It happened late in the first half at Tennessee, just as tailback LaMichael James hit the grass after a one-yard gain to set up fourth-and-1 at the Oregon 48. Oregon trailed 13-3 at the time and was struggling to get anything going against the the mostly inexperienced Volunteers and, beer in hand, I yelled at my television “we gotta get something going here - go for it.” And, Kelly did, without hesitation. Quarterback Darron Thomas handed the ball to back-up tailback Kenjon Barner and he followed his experienced offensive line forward for 3 yards and a first down. The Ducks got only a field goal out of the drive, but quickly got the ball back and drove 62 yards in four plays for the tying touchdown with 1:04 left in the half.

It’s that last 64 seconds that really sold me on Kelly.

Tennessee got the ball on its 23 with plenty of time to drive for more points, but seemingly elected to run out the clock and head to the lockers with a 13-all tie – a huge victory of sorts for an unranked team with a first-year coach against the seventh-ranked Ducks.

Oregon used a timeout, which had me wondering what Kelly was doing. Why make the half longer so that the Vols have more of a chance to score? The ESPN commentators talked about the Ducks maybe getting the ball back, but Oregon only had one timeout left and wasn’t going to get the ball back without a turnover, so what was the point with that?

Then it hit me, that’s brilliant … and just plain mean. Psychological warfare.

What Kelly did was effectively tell Tennessee the game could be as long as possible, they weren’t going to win.

And that’s what happened. In the third quarter, Oregon moved at will on offense with three touchdowns, pummeled the Vols on defense – scoring on an interception return, and even scored on special teams – a punt return by Barner.

New Mexico? Tennessee? At least the Vols didn’t get shut out in front of their fans, who mostly left by the start of the fourth quarter.

As a fan who wants to see a little of himself within the coach of any of his favorite teams, those last minutes of the first half sold me on Kelly and his sweatsuits. Maybe Mike Bellotti really did know what he was doing in handing the program off to Kelly.

So, how or when can Oregon schedule Texas or Alabama? Maybe even Boise State again. Bring ‘em on.



They are playing LSU next year.