NORMAN, Okla. – For 1 1/2 quarters, it was last season all over again.
Brad Smith was running rampant through the Oklahoma secondary, and No. 24 Missouri was hanging around and waiting for a big play to spark a major upset.
Midway through the second quarter, Missouri had done everything it could to stay with No. 1 Oklahoma. The Tigers put together an impressive goal-line stand, stopping the Sooners three times inside the 3, and immediately answered with a 76-yard touchdown drive to tie it at 10.
“They had been getting after it,” Smith said. “But after that, they were doing even more. They stepped it up.”
Missouri’s offense got stuck in neutral and Oklahoma’s defense reverted to its awesome form. Where big holes once had been, they were filled with All-Americans. Racking up 163 yards to that point, Missouri gained 103 for the rest of the game.
“We made some big plays,” Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops said. “The defense was great. Brad Smith is such a great player. We settled down and really limited almost everything that they did in the second half.”
For a while, it looked as though Smith would torch Oklahoma again, as he did last season, gaining 391 yards in the Tigers’ 31-24 loss in Columbia.
“You always think you’re going to go out and do what you always do,” Smith said. “They did some things and changed what they were doing and they stopped us.”
Missouri receiver Darius Outlaw said it would have taken more than Smith to beat Oklahoma.
“There’s 11 players out there on that field,” Outlaw said. “Brad’s our leader and we rely on him a lot, but we’ve got to focus in and execute as a full offense. We can’t rely on one guy to go out there and beat a No. 1 defense like Oklahoma has.”
When the Sooners were ready to pull away, it was as if the defense suddenly turned it on, and before long, the Tigers were out of it.
“They ran a couple of things we hadn’t seen,” Outlaw said. “What can I say? Their defense was good. They flipped the switch and they did it.”
Said Smith: “They’ve got a lot of talented guys. They made plays when they had to. They’re definitely as good as advertised.”
In the second half, the vaunted Oklahoma defense dominated, overwhelming Missouri with its speed. Smith barely had time to get to his first read before he was under heavy pressure. The Sooners sacked Smith six times and held him to 230 yards.
Smith took a pounding in the second half before leaving the game with 5:14 left. Coach Gary Pinkel said Smith suffered what he thinks is a minor back strain in the Tigers’ first offensive series. Pinkel said Smith wasn’t taken out because of the injury. Smith said the injury wasn’t enough to affect his play, but it caused him some pain throughout the game.
“He strained his back a little bit early,” Pinkel said. “I don’t think it’s anything more than a strain. After the first play he ran, they hit him and he just fell and twisted his back a little bit.”
Although the injury happened in the first half, Smith took a pounding in the second half.
“He did, and he kept getting up,” Missouri center A.J. Ricker said. “That’s the kind of heart that kid has. That guy’s something special. We’ve got to block better for him, or he won’t be around.”