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Posted on Fri, Oct. 29, 2004

MU's run game still impresses Nebraska

COLUMBIA — Quick, check to see whether the smoke is still being blown. Or does first-year Nebraska football coach Bill Callahan really believe what he's saying about the Missouri offense the Cornhuskers will face at 11 a.m. Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.

Callahan gushed at the versatility of Missouri's running game, whether it be as a power attack where the Tigers pound the ball at a defense or an option game where quarterback Brad Smith can get on the loose.

The combination, he said, makes it tough to defend.

“From the perspective of moving the pocket, they can take Brad Smith and they can move him,” Callahan said. “You can't zero in on a launch point in terms of your pressure plan because he may not be there.

“They're going to move him out and then he's got that added addition of scrambling and creating plays on the move. He is excellent at that creativity.”

Pardon anyone that has truly watched Missouri football this season, particularly Saturday when the Tigers blew a black and golden opportunity to take control of the Big 12 North race.

Smith ran 17 times for 58 yards. Missouri, as a team, netted 168 yards in 45 carries, an average of only 3.7 yards per carry. Oklahoma State, after falling behind 17-0 with just under a minute to go in the first half, certainly didn't have trouble locating Smith.

Smith ran six times for 23 net yards in a scoreless second half for MU. And the Tigers gained 33 yards in the 10 times that another MU player ran the ball in the second half.

And all that before starting tailback Damien Nash was suspended, for at least this game, his duties given up to backup Marcus Woods and first-time-playing true freshman Tony Temple.

Heck, even Oklahoma State coach Les Miles admitted what thousands of Missouri fans were grumbling about at game's end, that the Cowboys knew exactly what Missouri was going to do.

“From what they were doing in the first half,” Miles said. “We understood how they were countering some of the things we were doing. And our kids understood what we were going to need to do. Game plan adjustment.”

Perhaps Callahan has spent too much time watching video from Missouri's 41-24 victory over Nebraska last season in Columbia.

Smith ran 18 times for 123 yards. He also hit 13 of 27 passes for 180 yards. Smith also caught a 47-yard TD pass from Darius Outlaw on a wide receiver throwback play. Missouri, which broke open a close game with 27 points in the fourth quarter, even scored on a 14-yard TD pass to tight end Victor Sesay from Sonny Riccio off a fake field goal.

But Riccio is gone now. And so, some contend, is the old Brad Smith.

To beat Nebraska for the first time after 24 years of consecutive losses a year ago, Missouri employed an offensive game plan that was a banana split with chocolate, butterscotch and coconut syrup.

The more descriptive term for Missouri's offense against Oklahoma State — even in a dominating first half — was plain vanilla, no sprinkles.

The plan, according to redshirt freshman tight end Martin Rucker, was for the Tigers to do a few things exceptionally well. That didn't change from the first half to the second.

“Not really,” Rucker said. “We didn't have a whole lot of plays in this week. We just tried to run what we ran in the first half and just keep sticking with the game plan.”

Hopefully for Rucker, that isn't too honest an assessment, and the MU coaching staff that suspended Nash for criticizing the offensive game plan will allow Rucker to be thrown a pass or two.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel keeps insisting that there is plenty of complexity to the Tigers' offensive scheme, and plenty of room for Smith to maneuver in it.

“We take in quite a few plays every game,” Pinkel said.

“We've got about every way you can use Brad. What we choose to do and what we do is two different things.”

What Missouri chooses to do offensively just might be the key to which team — Missouri or Nebraska — breaks a 4-3 overall and 2-2 Big 12 North-leading tie on Saturday.

If Missouri really does unleash a dominating running attack — with Smith playing football as he did a year ago and perhaps Tony Temple proving it was worth burning a redshirt in the eighth game of his true freshman year — then perhaps words from an outside source could prove prescient.

“Unpredictability certainly falls in favor of the unpredictable,” said Bill Snyder, who unleashed the 147-yard running ability of backup quarterback Allen Webb to great success in last Saturday's mauling of the Cornhuskers.

“If you're not prepared for something that may take place because you were unable to predict that it would, perhaps you're at a little bit of a disadvantage.”

Missouri at Nebraska

• WHEN/ WHERE: 11 a.m. Saturday in Lincoln, Neb.

• TV: Fox Sports Net

• INSIDE: K-State hopes to continue its late-season success; KU has a chance to make a push for a second straight bowl game.

Previews, D-7

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