Missouri football fans have their Brad back.
Smith welcomed Columbia fans to the spread offense, a fast-paced, no-huddle mix of spreading defenders out with the pass and using the subsequent holes to execute an option running game. He rushed for 165 yards while throwing for 248 on Saturday in the Tigers’ home opener against New Mexico on Saturday.
In doing so, the Youngstown, Ohio native with the common name, set himself apart, becoming the Tigers’ career rushing and passing leader.
Smith’s record run came in the third quarter when he snuck up the middle for a 32-yard gain, surpassing Zack Abron’s 3,198 career rushing yards mark. His three touchdowns on the ground were the most he had in a single game since November 15, 2003 against Texas A&M.
“I thought he had some of the best runs I’d seen him make,” coach Gary Pinkel said.
While Smith’s fans should be happy about the record-breaking performance, they should be ecstatic that Pinkel’s attempt to use Smith as a pocket passer is as good as gone. Smith ran the ball a career high 29 times, gaining more than 100 yards for only the second time since 2003 when he did it eight times and garnered national attention while leading the Tigers to the Independence Bowl.
Pinkel’s attempt at molding the nontraditional Smith into a traditional, drop-back-and-throw quarterback yielded much criticism last season.
“I think we can do a lot more (running) with him in this scheme,” Pinkel said. “When you start running 105 plays, that’s (29 carries) normal. A lot of times when Brad gets to the perimeter, he’ll hopefully be able to pitch the ball or shovel it off, but if it dictates different, then he keeps he football. He did that a lot.”
It was fitting that Smith broke the rushing record at the same time fans were reintroduced to the smooth, shifty Smith they met three years ago when the redshirt freshman gave Missouri a glimmer of hope for the future in his collegiate debut, a season-opening win against Illinois.
A win was something Smith couldn’t deliver on Saturday, though.
Although Smith also broke Jeff Handy’s 11-year-old MU career passing record of 6,959 yards, he illustrated imperfection in the passing game, throwing two interceptions, including one on a critical fourth-quarter drive.
Winning is what’s most important to the team leader, and two days after cementing his name in Missouri’s record book, the 45-35 loss was all Smith could think about.
“I never think about those things (records),” Smith said Monday. “I just go out there to take whatever I can get and hope to help the team win. Unfortunately, that couldn’t happen.”
With the loss, Smith dropped to 19-19 as a starter at MU.
“Win-loss records are a big part of it,” Pinkel said. “He recognizes that, and it forces him to put the other things aside a little bit.”
After the game, Smith, who sometimes seems to have endless energy, was fatigued.
“He was a little tired at the end,” Pinkel said. “We’re going to have to watch that a little bit.”