LAWRENCE, Kan. – Brad Smith passed to himself. That was about the only extraordinary thing he did in Saturday’s loss.
Smith, a sophomore quarterback who has been touted as one of the best in the Big 12 Conference, had an unexpected reception on a fourth-quarter play from MU’s 13. On first down, Kansas defensive end Monroe Weekley batted Smith’s pass backward, and Smith caught the ball and ran 5 yards.
The Tigers had a season-low 196 yards of offense against Kansas – 50 yards fewer than Smith averaged coming into the game. The Jayhawks’ defense ranked 88th in the nation.
“It’s going to take a lot to stop Brad, and they played a lot,” Tigers wide receiver Darius Outlaw said.
Smith passed for a career-low 62 yards; his low had been 123 yards against Nebraska last season. The Jayhawks sacked him twice for 13 yards, and he averaged 1.9 yards per carry and finished with 33 yards.
MU players said it didn’t surprise them that the Jayhawks targeted Smith, who has led MU to two fourth-quarter comebacks this season.
“That’s something to be expected when you have a high-caliber player like that,” senior wide receiver Marcus James said. “Of course they’re going to game-plan and scheme to stop your best player. Who wouldn’t?”
The Tigers’ offense wasn’t out of sync for the entire game. After the first quarter, the Tigers had 61 rushing yards; tailback Zack Abron’s 19-yard run that set up MU’s first score was the highlight. In the second quarter, though, Abron had one carry for 2 yards, and the Tigers finished with negative 2 yards for the quarter and 59 for the half.
The Tigers gained 13 first downs to Kansas’ 21, and seven were gained during their two scoring drives. MU coach Gary Pinkel said it was not his intention to rely on the pass as much as his team did, but because of the Tigers’ continued three-and-out possessions, it was the only choice.
“We wanted to be balanced with the pass and the run, but without having the ball for enough time we couldn’t do that,” Pinkel said. “That’s why Abron only had a couple of carries in the second half.”
MU took a 14-13 lead on its first drive of the second half when Outlaw caught a 9-yard reception, 1 more yard than his net yardage on four catches. The Tigers gained 36 yards thereafter.