SHREVEPORT, La. -– The introduction to ESPN’s broadcast declared the Independence Bowl the beginning of Brad Smith’s Heisman Trophy campaign.
The campaign was a little slow getting off the ground, but senior wide receiver Darius Outlaw said it’s only getting started.
“I think next year’s gonna be a great year for Brad,” Outlaw said. “They’re gonna be ready. With Brad at the helm, he’s bound for the Heisman.”
Smith isn’t so sure; he only knows Arkansas came out on top 27-14.
“I don’t know about that,” Smith said. “I just wanted to win the game so bad. It’s killing me now. I don’t know.”
Smith, who averaged 261 yards of offense during the regular season, points the finger at himself. He had 94 yards in the first half. He carried six times for 7 yards. By the time Smith was able to find open running room, Arkansas had taken control.
Arkansas opened up a 21-7 halftime lead, and Smith’s 157 second-half yards couldn’t make up the difference. Outlaw said Arkansas’ defensive scheme didn’t allow Smith much running room in the first half, but Smith said any adjustments Missouri made at the half were minor.
“We just executed a little better,” Smith said. “The offensive line blocked great in the second half, and things opened up.”
Smith wouldn’t quit. He searched for holes, sometimes finding them where they weren’t, doing all he could to get Missouri back in it.
It wasn’t enough.
“I’m gonna watch film, and I know there were some opportunities that I had to hit some guys and to make some runs that I didn’t make,” Smith said.
Smith beats himself up over every incomplete pass, every hole he hits too late, every extra yard he doesn’t get, and Wednesday was no different.
Never mind that Smith was shattering school records with every run, including one of his own. He wasn’t satisfied.
Smith became Missouri’s career record holder for total offense, passing former quarterback Jeff Handy’s mark of 6,640. Smith, who has 6,745, also passed his mark for total yards in a season. With 251 yards against Arkansas, Smith finished the season with 3,383 yards, bettering his mark of 3,362 set last season.
Smith failed to reach 2,000 passing yards, though, finishing with 1,977. Had he done so, Smith would have become the first player in Division I to pass for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 in two seasons.
Smith is quick to remember the bad plays, such as the pass that was too high for tight end Clint Matthews in the end zone, but quick to forget the good ones and the individual accomplishments. He said he will start watching tape of the game as soon as he gets back from winter break, looking to improve for 2004. The bad plays will stand out to him then, too.
“That’s the plays you’ve got to make,” Smith said. “I didn’t make them.”
Smith knows he’s hard on himself, but he said that is one of the qualities that makes him the player that he is.
“When I hear about great players, they never take it easy on themselves,” Smith said. “If you do that, you don’t play well at all. I’m gonna keep pushing myself until I get to where I want to get to.”