No. 15 Sooners expecting more big plays from Kelly

Thursday, September 14th 2006, 10:22 pm
By: News On 6

NORMAN, Okla. (AP) _ Malcolm Kelly knew what was coming as soon as his defender bunched up next to him at the line.

At the snap of the ball, the speedy Oklahoma sophomore was off. He raced past cornerback Dashon Goldson, caught a lob from Paul Thompson and found his way into the end zone for his second touchdown of the day.

``As soon as (Goldson) came pressed up, I knew (Thompson) was going to put the ball out there, and he put it exactly where it needs to be,'' Kelly said.

On Saturday against Washington, Kelly finished with a career day _ six catches for 121 yards and two scores _ and it could've been even bigger.

Thompson overthrew him on a stop-and-go pattern down the left sideline when Kelly was slowed by contact with Washington cornerback Roy Lewis, and Kelly was unable to come down with an underthrown deep ball on a similar stop-and-go pattern down the right sideline.

Kelly also dropped a 20-yard pass from Thompson later on.

At halftime, Kelly said offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson found him and reassured him.

``He said it's part of growing up, I've got to grow up,'' Kelly said. ``I came back, and they just kept coming to me.''

In the second half, Kelly caught a 42-yard pass to set up an Adrian Peterson touchdown run and the 35-yard touchdown pass from Thompson that only became a possibility once the Sooners got to the line of scrimmage.

When Goldson came up to challenge Kelly at the line, it set off an automatic route change that put Kelly on a fade pattern. Thompson noticed.

``I definitely knew the matchup that I had out there at the time. I knew where I was going right away,'' Thompson said.

Thompson said the connection on the automatic route change shows the 15th-ranked Sooners' maturity in their offense, despite being relatively young. Kelly, with 42 career receptions, leads all Oklahoma players in that category.

With that youth comes a certain amount of disrespect, particularly when there's a former Heisman Trophy runner-up in the backfield. Kelly's big catches are the first step toward getting opposing defenses to take some focus off Peterson and pay attention to the receivers.

``That's what we needed to do,'' Kelly said. ``We needed to try to get everybody out of that box. Anybody in their right mind, when you're going against Adrian you're going to try to load that box to try to stop him.

``We had to stretch the field to let future defenses know that you just can't stack the box against us.''

The big pass plays are something Oklahoma, which meets 18th-ranked Oregon Saturday, was often missing last season after three wide receivers were drafted into the NFL and eventual third-round draft pick Travis Wilson got injured. Kelly could help fill that role.

``Malcolm has a chance to be a great, great _ one of those special, exceptional wide receivers,'' Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. ``He's working toward that. I believe he showed signs of that last week. ... He's every bit of 6-5, he's got strength, he's got great speed, he runs great routes, he's got strong hands. He's just going to keep getting better and better.''

Kelly feels he has made strides since high school, where he was expected mainly to run past defenders and catch deep balls. Stoops said Kelly can still improve his routes, but he expects that to come in time.