In case anyone forgot, Brad Smith is good.
Smith gave Nebraska a clear reminder Saturday night at Memorial Stadium.
Coming off the worst performance of his young career, Smith played with the style Missouri fans have come to expect.
Smith did a little bit of everything for the Tigers, putting together his best performance since the Oklahoma game in 2002. Smith accounted for 350 yards rushing, passing and receiving and scored four touchdowns, tying a school mark.
Nebraska linebacker Barrett Ruud said Smith’s dominance was nothing new.
“Running quarterbacks are a problem for every defense,” Ruud said. “Last year, Oklahoma had problems with this guy. We’re going to have to watch film and learn from it.”
Perhaps Smith’s biggest play was what MU coach Gary Pinkel calls “Diamond Throwback Screen.” Receiver Darius Outlaw took a handoff from Smith, ran to the right sideline and threw it back to Smith, who had a cadre of blockers in front of him. Smith took the pass 47 yards for his first receiving touchdown.
Outlaw said it was good to throw the ball again.
“This is the kind of offense we have and it shows that this works,” Outlaw said. “It was great getting to make a play for Brad this time.”
Questions surrounded Smith and the Missouri offense after its poor showing against Kansas, when Smith finished with 95 total yards.
Some said the team needed better play calling, others called for coaching changes and some said Pinkel should replace Smith. Instead, Pinkel turned him loose.
Pinkel said he told Smith early in the week that he was taking the reins off. Smith made the most of the opportunity, hurting Nebraska in every facet.
“We want him to be aggressive and smart with the football,” Pinkel said. “He can’t turn it loose and be afraid to make a mistake.”
After the Tigers fell behind 24-14 in the third quarter, Smith took over. With 14:53 to play, Smith checked off after reading the Cornhuskers’ blitz package. He called his number. Smith took the snap out of the shotgun, faked a handoff to Abron and darted down the left sideline for a 39-yard touchdown, making it 24-21 Nebraska.
Smith wasn’t done. He added a 1-yard touchdown run with 5:53 left to give MU a 34-24 lead. He finished Missouri’s scoring 42 seconds later with a 9-yard touchdown run.
Smith said Pinkel told him it was time to make the plays that he made in his debut season.
“He’s been telling us for two weeks don’t worry what your grade is or what everybody else says,” Smith said. “He said to just let it loose and make plays.”
Stunned Nebraska coach Frank Solich said Smith did what he had to do, and told reporters what many already knew.
“He made some plays,” Solich said. “He is a good football player.”