After leading Missouri on two scoring drives to start the Tigers’ game Sep. 9 at Troy, Brad Smith and the Missouri offense stalled. The Trojans’ defense kept Smith in the pocket and the Tigers away from the end zone.
Smith finished the game with 36 yards rushing. He also attempted 46 passes, the most for Smith since he was 28-of-50 in a 51-28 loss against Bowling Green in 2002.
When the Tigers (2-1) rebounded with a 48-0 win against Ball State (0-3) on Saturday, Smith did also, showing triple-threat ability. He threw for 213 yards and two touchdowns while rushing for 85 yards and another score. Smith also caught a pass from running back Damien Nash for 5 yards.
He said the Tigers have had the same game plan in all three games, but he had more room to run against the Cardinals than Troy.
“Yeah, they were there,” Smith said about running lanes. “I always try to take them. I don’t change the way I play from week to week. They were there, and I just tried to go out, and guys blocked well and make plays.”
Smith’s running display quieted criticism after Smith’s low rushing total against the Trojans.
ESPN2 analysts Lee Corso and Kirk Herbstreit said the Missouri coaches didn’t adjust the game plan against Troy, keeping Smith in the pocket, rather than letting him rollout and run.
Before the Ball State game, MU coach Gary Pinkel said the coaching staff was not turning Smith into a pocket quarterback.
“I think we’re doing all the right things with him,” Pinkel said. “I never look to newspapers for evaluation and if that was the evaluation, they don’t know what they’re talking about.”
Pinkel also said the Tigers did not change their strategy between the season opener against Arkansas State and the game against Troy, and that the reason for a lack of production was a lack of execution, a notion Smith supported.
“Whatever play was called and whatever situation we were in, we try to do what’s best for that situation,” Smith said. “We just didn’t get it done.”
While the Tigers did not execute their plays, the Trojans made adjustments to hinder the Missouri efficiency.
“They made some good adjustments and started making plays,” Smith said. “They just did a good job of covering our stuff and being in the right position.”
Even though his Trojans limited Smith’s success, Troy coach Larry Blakeney complimented Smith, describing him as unstoppable.
“You don’t really stop him,” Blakeney said. “You have to contain him…I thought we did a good job.”
Ball State did not do as well containing Smith and Cardinals coach Brady Hoke said Smith made plays to break away from his defenders.
“We had Brad Smith contained a couple times, and he makes a great athletic play for a first down,” Hoke said.
One of those plays came when Smith stiff-armed cornerback Brandon Means at the 5-yard line to reach the end zone in the second quarter, putting Missouri ahead 17-0.
Smith said the stiff arm works when you need separation, but the plays he most enjoys are the trick plays, such as the halfback pass from Nash.
Smith said he does whatever he can overcome struggles, such as Troy.
“Whenever they do something to stop you, you always want to push harder to make something else happen,” Smith said.