LAWRENCE, Kan. — Three measly points.
No one could have expected this kind of output from a Missouri offense that, a week earlier, was pumping out points against the nation’s No. 1 rush defense.
But dual-threat quarterback Brad Smith, the engine behind Missouri’s spread offense, never even got the wheels turning and the Tigers fell 13-3 to rival Kansas on Saturday.
Smith, who earned national player of the week honors after for becoming the first player in Division I-A history to throw and pass for more than 230 yards last week against Nebraska, was stuffed on the ground and inaccurate through the air against the Jayhawks. The senior had two of the worst games of his career the past two years against Kansas and was once again stifled by Missouri’s biggest rival, finishing with 38 yards on 20 carries on the ground and 14-for-37 for 141 yards passing.
Kansas (4-4 overall, 1-4 Big 12) shut down the rest of the Tigers as well, allowing only 180 yards of total offense, Missouri’s worst output in four plus years under coach Gary Pinkel.
Kansas coach Mark Mangino said his team played its best defense of the season.
“Until today, I had never been around a defensive unit that executed the game plan exactly the way we set it up,” he said. “It was nearly flawless.”
The defense contained Smith with a strategy similar to that used by Iowa State two weeks ago, when the Cyclones limited the explosive Smith to just 84 yards of total offense.
“They weren’t blitzing and they stayed in their rush lanes,” Smith said.
Anytime it seemed Smith had jump-started the offense, the Jayhawks countered with a big play.
None was bigger than the forced fumble during the closing seconds of the third quarter. The Tigers ran an option play to the right side and Smith decided to pitch to Brad Ekwerekwu but Kansas cornerback Aqib Talib jumped in front of the ball, stealing it from Ekwerekwu.
“He took it out of my hands,” Ekwerekwu said.
In subsequent drives, Smith threw an interception and was tackled for a 21-yard loss after miscommunication forced a bad snap.
Conditions were ideal for the Kansas defense. The nation’s No. 2 rush defense was aided by a howling wind sweeping in from the open, south end of the stadium and a crowd of 48,238 kept things difficult for the Tigers’ no-huddle style of play.
Cornerback Darnell Terrell said the Jayhawks capitalized on every Missouri mistake.
“They were adjusting to everything we threw at them,” he said. “ They came out with great emotion because this is a rivalry game and they played their hearts out.”
Missouri (5-3,3-2) floundered its best opportunities to reach the end zone early, after the defense forced two turnovers on the first three Kansas drives. Terrell snagged his first career interception on a Jason Swanson pass during the game’s opening drive and Stryker Sulak forced a Swanson fumble two possessions later that gave Missouri good field position, but the Tigers managed only a field goal.
“Usually we capitalize on that kind of stuff and it’s critical for our offense to do so,” tailback Marcus Woods said. “We just didn’t do that today.”
Missouri also failed to consistently convert on third-down, converting 4-of-17 and only one of its first eight attempts.
An energized Kansas offense ran for 208 yards and marched for two touchdowns, doubling the touchdown output of the last three games combined.
“They did enough to win the game and that’s all I care about,” Mangino said.