COLUMBIA — Last week Chase Daniel — overcome by accolades after he engineered Missouri’s improbable overtime victory over Iowa State — declared he couldn’t hope to measure up to Brad Smith as the quarterback at the head of the Tigers’ scoring machine.
“He is 10 times better than I will ever be in this offense,” Daniel said.
On Saturday, Smith delivered on every ounce of Daniel’s hyperbolic praise.
From a career-worst 84 yards total offense in a game here last Saturday rescued by Daniel’s heroics after Smith went down with an injury, Smith unleashed a career-best 480 yards total offense against Nebraska.
There were big plays by an enraged MU defense. The Tigers held Nebraska to a minus-2 yards rushing, the second-lowest total in Cornhuskers history. There were fumbles and bumbles by the Cornhuskers, who seemed shocked by Smith’s ability to spit in the face of the famed Blackshirts tradition.
But Missouri beat Nebraska 41-24 Saturday because of Brad Smith. Brad was back, and that was a fact, his rambling and scrambling and passing up and down the field wiping out the single-game total offense record of 471 yards set by quarterback Jeff Handy in 1982 against Oklahoma State.
“You talk about a guy that battles back and handles adversity, and just tops it against a great defensive football team,” said MU coach Gary Pinkel. “That’s Brad Smith.”
Smith did it early, when MU roared to a 21-3 first-quarter lead. And he did it again late, after Nebraska had tied the score 24-24.
Missouri’s defense came up big as well, hounding Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor all day and with 6:45 left in the third quarter forcing (Jason Simpson) a Nebraska fumble by receiver Terrence Nunn and recovering it (David Overstreet) at the MU 3.
But Smith then drove Mizzou 97 yards in 10 plays, the last one Smith’s 44-yard TD run, putting Mizzou up for good 31-24.
Missouri then tacked on a field goal by Adam Crossett and Tony Temple’s 14-yard TD run in the final period. That last TD drive was interrupted when Smith gave way to Daniel for one play after a late hit by Nebraska’s Blake Tiedtke.
But Smith — who missed the final 8:51 and the overtime period in the Daniel-led 27-24 overtime victory the previous Saturday here over Iowa State — returned and immediately resumed his domination of the Cornhuskers’ defense.
He finished with 246 yards on 28 rushes and three touchdowns. He hit 21 of 36 passes for 234 yards, with one interception and one TD toss.
The victory, MU’s third straight, pushed the Tigers’ record to 5-2 and at 3-1 in the Big 12 North, assuring MU at least a share of the division lead. Nebraska fell to 5-2 overall, 2-2 in the North.
Smith, who came in as MU’s career leader in rushing, passing and total offense, ran for 145 yards and two touchdowns and hit 10 of 11 passes for 142 yards and another TD just in the first quarter.
On the second play of the game, Smith hit a 50-yard pass to Brad Ekwerekwu to the Nebraska 23. Two plays after that Smith fired a 15-yard touchdown pass that popped out of the hands of MU’s Will Franklin and into the hands of the Tigers’ Tommy Saunders.
On MU’s next possession, Smith drove the Tigers 81 yards in seven plays in 1 minute, 39 seconds to a 14-0 lead. His 53-yard sweep down the east sideline at Faurot Field gave the Tigers a first down at the Nebraska 16. Smith scored on a 4-yard bootleg left.
Nebraska responded with Jordan Congdon’s 32-yard field goal, drawing within 14-3.
But it took Smith one play to boost Mizzou on top 21-3. It was merely a quarterback keeper straight up the middle for 79 yards, the longest run of Smith’s impressive four seasons at Missouri. And there were still 4 minutes, 13 seconds left in the first quarter.
The most recent history of Missouri football, of course, should have suggested that this had all come too easily, particularly against a Nebraska defense that came into the game ranked No. 11 in the nation in total defense and No. 1 nationally against the run.
Nebraska roared back and tied the score 24-24 by halftime.
Taylor hit Todd Peterson with a 34-yard scoring pass near the end of the first quarter. Adam Crossett kicked a 29-yard field goal for Missouri. But Cody Glenn’s 1-yard TD run with 4:49 left before intermission and Nate Swift’s 8-yard TD reception from Taylor at 2:07 of the second quarter made it a whole new ball game.
The MU coaches gave Daniel his promised second-quarter series. MU led 24-10 when Daniel replaced Smith at quarterback with 12:32 left in the second quarter.
The drive started at the MU 11 and ended at the MU 16 with a punt.
Smith came back in for the next MU offensive series. But that drive ended when Nebraska’s Daniel Bullocks blocked Crossett’s punt from the MU 17 and recovered the block at the MU 1.
Glenn cashed in the turnover for his touchdown.
On the Tigers’ second series after Nebraska’s TD, Smith was blindsided by Nebraska’s Barry Turner on third-and-1 from the MU 40. Smith fumbled. Nebraska’s Jay Moore picked up the loose ball and rumbled down to the MU 8.
Taylor hit Swift on the extreme left side of the end zone for the first TD catch of Swift’s career.
To reach Mike DeArmond, Missouri reporter for The Star, call (816) 234-4353 or send e-mail to email@example.com