COLUMBIA, Mo. — So elusive was Brad Smith on Saturday that people were still chasing after him an hour after the Nebraska-Missouri football game was over.
Late coming out of the Tigers' locker room, Smith negotiated his way through waiting reporters and television cameras, settled in and said his performance was nothing special when everybody was eager to say and write otherwise.
"It's good. I'm enjoying it,'' Smith said. "I'm just happy we won, and my teammates played well.''
Not much of a quote from the Missouri quarterback, considering the role he played in the Tigers' 41-24 win over the Huskers at Faurot Field.
Downplay it all he wants, but the statistics couldn't be disguised. The senior set a school record with 480 yards of total offense, and his 246 rushing rank only behind Billy Sims (247 for Oklahoma in 1979) as the most by a Nebraska opponent.
Along the way, Smith wadded up the Huskers' overhauled defensive game plan and threw (and ran) it back at them. He shut up those Missouri fans who actually had been calling for more of freshman Chase Daniel.
"It's pointless to get motivated by that kind of stuff, because it wears off,'' Smith said. "You just have to understand how people are and go out and play. All I can control is the way I play the game.''
Smith was maybe the only person in control Saturday before a crowd of 60,641, which somehow felt the need to tear down goalposts after beating a team that was 5-6 a year ago.
His own coach tried to slow him by substituting Daniel for his usual first-half series Saturday, even though Smith had directed Missouri to a 24-10 lead in just four offensive series. Gary Pinkel's decision then seemed to sap the Tigers' momentum, and Nebraska charged back to tie the game 24-24 by halftime.
Nebraska then had a chance to steal the Big 12 Conference win, only to commit three third quarter turnovers. The middle one, a Terrence Nunn fumble inside the Missouri 10-yard line, was followed by Mizzou driving 97 yards in 10 plays for the deciding score.
"It was 0-0 going into the second half,'' NU fullback Dane Todd said. "It's anybody's game at that point. We felt we had a legitimate opportunity in the second half, and we let some things slip away from us.''
Ultimately, Nebraska (5-2, 2-2 Big 12) deserved its fate — and second straight loss in Columbia by the same score.
The Huskers scrapped a base defense that was good enough to rank No. 12 nationally and No. 2 in the Big 12 because they thought Smith and the Tigers required a different approach. They couldn't run the football -- at negative 2 yards, posting their worst total in 54 years --and really never even tried with a record-low 19 attempts.
The NU defense started in a 3-4 alignment, designed to get an extra linebacker in pass coverage. Later, the Huskers at times tried six defensive backs.
Missouri (5-2, 3-1) clearly wasn't fooled as it started the game with 77- and 81-yard scoring drives. Ahead 14-3, the Tigers' next series lasted one play as Smith darted 79 yards up the middle.
"They give you so much garbage and empty (backfields) and check a lot of stuff,'' NU linebacker Corey McKeon said. "You've got to be able to throw different formations at them. They adjusted to that.
"They were throwing and running the ball out of five-wide (receiver sets). Not a lot of teams are going to do that. We'll be ready for it next time, though.''
Strong safety Daniel Bullocks said the goals were to put pressure on Smith and compete with their receivers. Things did get better in the second and third quarters as NU stuffed Missouri on seven straight possessions.
"We believed in the game plan,'' Bullocks said.
The Nebraska offense got second-quarter help to wipe out the 24-10 deficit. It needed to go just 1 and 8 yards for touchdowns after Bullocks blocked a punt and Barry Turner forced a Smith fumble.
The comeback then got wasted as Taylor fumbled, Nunn fumbled and Taylor was intercepted in the third quarter. Nunn had caught a fourth-down pass from Taylor when he was stripped by Jason Simpson and David Overstreet recovered on the NU 3-yard line.
"Seemingly, it appeared we were going to take the lead, but the turnover was very costly,'' NU coach Bill Callahan said. "We had additional turnovers that really factored into their win.''
After Nunn's fumble, Missouri used nine plays to go from the 3 to the Huskers' 45. Then came Smith's third rushing touchdown, and fourth overall, for a 31-24 lead.
"That kind of put the dagger in, '' Smith said. "It put the seal on it. There wasn't a lot of talking, we just wanted to go down and put the ball in the end zone.''
Smith moved into 10th place on the NCAA all-time total offense list at 11,749 yards. He improved to 2-2 in four starts against Nebraska.
"He was tough,'' Bullocks said. "He put up some big numbers on us.''
|Yards per carry||5.7||-0.1|
Nebraska is 65-36 all-time against Missouri.
|Wake Forest||Sept. 10|
|Iowa State||Oct. 1|
|Texas Tech||Oct. 8|
|Kansas State||Nov. 12|
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