Brian Smith, Missouri’s senior defensive end who is three sacks short of the Big 12 Conference record for career sacks, was lost for 6 to 8 weeks with a fractured right hip. He will miss the rest of the regular season, but he might be back in time for the team’s bowl game.
In Saturday’s game against Kansas State, Smith was injured on a play where safety David Overstreet returned a fumble for a touchdown. Smith was turned to the side and another defender was pushing him. The focus had shifted to Overstreet reaching the end zone for the first time in his career, but Smith was down on the field.
“He just kind of got turned and stumbled,” coach Gary Pinkel said after watching the play on film. “He’s probably gone to dances where he got hit harder than that. It’s just kind of a freak accident to say the least.”
The injury does not require surgery, but Smith will be on crutches for as long as it takes for his hip to heal.
“You know, it’s a real emotional loss,” defensive end Stryker Sulak said. “He’s a real leader to us. All you can do is pray for him and hope the best for him. It’s something you just can’t prepare for.”
The loss of Smith meant defensive line coach Craig Kuligowski had to reorder the line’s depth chart again.
Senior defensive lineman Ziggy Hood is back starting at defensive tackle after missing time with a broken right foot and playing as a backup while getting back to full strength.
Sulak, who was defensive end Xzavie Jackson’s backup, will rotate to Smith’s side of the line and start at end there.
Nose guard Lorenzo Williams and Jackson will remain where they were.
“We try to cover that stuff during training camp to anticipate injuries,” Kuligowski said. “The guys are going to miss their friend being there, but they’re going to have to step up. They’re being given an opportunity, so I hope they’re excited.”
Players were upset that Smith will likely miss the Big 12 record for sacks in a season, but said they plan on stepping up their efforts so they wouldn’t disappoint him.
“Smitty’s our guy out there,” linebacker Dedrick Harrington said. “Everybody loves Smitty. We’ll use this as a focusing tool so we don’t slip.”
After spending Saturday night through Monday morning in the hospital, Smith was cleared to go home. His coaches got the chance to see him and said he appeared to be doing well despite the injury.
“He’s doing OK now,” said Kuligowski, who visited Smith twice while he was in the hospital. “He seems to be handling it well, all things considered.”
ANOTHER AWARD: Overstreet, a senior, was named the Big 12 Defensive Player of the Week after racking up 11 tackles and returning a fumble for a touchdown in the game against Kansas State.
The award was the third for Missouri’s defenders this year, following Smith and linebacker Marcus Bacon’s selections on back-to-back weeks in September. Quarterback Chase Daniel was named offensive player of the week after the opening game against Murray State.
STARTING TIME: ABC has announced that the Nov. 4 game at Nebraska will start at either 11 a.m. or 7 p.m.
The network will likely make its decision after the teams play Saturday. Nebraska visits Oklahoma State at 2:30 p.m. Victories by both Missouri and Nebraska will most likely place their game in the national prime-time slot at 7 p.m.
IN OR OUT: Linebacker Brock Christopher, who has a slight knee sprain, will play against Oklahoma.
There’s an outside chance that cornerback Domonique Johnson will be ready to play, but he will likely still be out with a sprained ACL. Cornerback Trenile Washington, who is still recovering from a broken ankle, will not be ready for Saturday’s game.