Kevin Kelley, the former Arkansas high school coach who never punts and attempts numerous onside kicks per game, made his college coaching debut Saturday for Presbyterian College, an FCS program. His team put together a bold performance to match Kelley’s coaching strategy.
The Blue Hose dismantled NAIA St. Andrews, 84-43, behind an FCS-record 10 passing touchdowns and 538 yards from quarterback and former Michigan walk-on Ren Hefley. As a team, Presbyterian outgained St. Andrews by nearly 500 yards — 814-315 — with 621 coming through the air.
That 84-point scoring output from Presbyterian is one less than the school’s single-game season-high point total from the 2020-21 season — on the basketball court.
“Definitely didn’t anticipate that,” Kelley told the Associated Press about the Blue Hose’s offensive proficiency. “I think I’m not good at many things in the world, but I’m good on the offensive side of the ball and worked really hard in that area.”
Kelley proved he was more than good offensively at Pulaski Academy, the Little Rock, Arkansas high school team he carried to nine state championships. Hefley didn’t quarterback those Bruins teams, but he did play under Kelley during his fifth- through ninth-grade seasons.
That longtime quarterback-coach connection paid quick dividends. Hefley — who was on Michigan’s roster from 2019-20 but didn’t see game action — earned Pioneer Football League Offensive Player of the Week honors in his very first college appearance, one in which he tossed for four touchdowns of 25 yards or longer.
Kelley told the AP he’s heard from supporters such as former Arkansas high school coach and current UCF coach Gus Malzahn, whose team put together an impressive Week 1 performance in its own right. But the biggest stamp of approval came from Kelley’s players, who understandably questioned their new coach’s tactics.
“Those kids, when you say things are going to be different, well, they’ve heard that before,” said Kelley, whose team attempted nine onside kicks and five fourth-down attempts in the season opener.
The Blue Hose players must know things are different now and will have a chance for more points this Saturday against NAIA University of Fort Lauderdale.