MANHATTAN, Kan. -– When what usually works didn’t, Missouri seemed stunned.
The Tigers came into the game with the No. 6 running offense in the nation, but finished with 109 rushing yards. Combined with a sporadic passing game, Missouri had trouble accomplishing anything on offense in its 24-14 loss to Kansas State on Saturday at KSU Stadium.
The Tigers gained 99 yards of offense in the first half. For the game, Kansas State contained quarterback Brad Smith to 26 rushing yards on 16 carries.
In the first half, the Tigers seemed reluctant to run the ball. Tailback Zack Abron had one carry in the first half, on the first play of the game.
In the second half, he had 70 yards rushing and a 37-yard touchdown run to bring the Tigers within 24-14, but it was too late to mount another comeback.
The Tigers committed to their passing game early in the matchup because Kansas State stacked several players on its defensive line, MU coach Gary Pinkel said.
“They were forcing us to put so many people inside, we tried to get some big plays out of it,” Pinkel said. “We didn’t hit them early, there were times we were getting beat up front.”
MU receivers did their job for the most part. Wide receiver Thomson Omboga made five catches for 41 yards, and Darius Outlaw made three for 51 yards.
The Tigers’ offensive line had trouble protecting Smith, though. Smith was sacked four times.
“When you’re struggling like we’re struggling, you’re trying to do anything you can to move the ball,” Pinkel said. “They played great defense, and we tried to get some things going. We tried a lot of different things, play-action pass, get the ball downfield, because they were having eight, nine guys in the box. Obviously we tried everything, we just weren’t good enough to do it.”
Smith was uncharacteristically unable to break a run longer than 8 yards in the first half. Other than starting a drive at the Wildcats’ 3 after defensive tackle Atiyyah Ellison forced quarterback Ell Roberson to fumble, MU did not make it past Kansas State’s 43 in the first half.
“They were always there wherever we went,” Smith said.
The Tigers hinted at an offensive spurt in the third quarter after MU free safety Nino Williams II intercepted a ball and ran it to MU’s 48.
On the Tigers’ ensuing drive, though, Wildcat cornerback Louis Lavender intercepted Smith’s pass into the end zone that was intended for receiver Darius Outlaw. The Tigers’ lone offensive spurt in the third quarter was thwarted.
“I was trying to make a play and I forced it,” Smith said.
The Tigers’ second-quarter touchdown was the first in 11 quarters against Kansas State.
“We played very well and I am proud of our defense,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said.