Smith suffered his first concussion in the second quarter on Saturday after he took a hard hit near the goal line against Ball State. Before he left the game, smith had 229 total yards, 117 rushing and 112 passing, and he was paced to put up the kind of amazing game Tiger fans got used to last season. The good news? He's back in practice already, and team doctors have cleared him to play.
So clearly, Smith's health is an important part to the Tigers' fortunes. The question is how to keep Smith fortunate for the rest of the season. Many times, Smith's ability to break tackles can help, like it did in his 35-yard touchdown run on Saturday. But it's the times he gets hit that could stick a dagger into Missouri's season.
"With Brad and the type of responsibility he has as a part of the offense, unfortunately it calls for him to run the ball on a lot of plays, designed or not," cornerback Calvin Washington said. "I know the competitiveness of Brad, he's trying to get the extra yard, he's trying to do that last-minute thing. But personally, I would like to see him slide sometimes."
Smith has shown progress, for the most part, in his decision making, as to when to slide to avoid hits. It's when he gets to the end zone that the competitive Brad Smith takes over, and when the injured Brad Smith can result.
Smith made everyone's heart skip against Illinois when he tried to leap through three Illinois defenders. He was knocked out at the 1-yard line. Once again, Smith tried to go for the extra yard against Ball State, and that was his last play on Saturday.
"If I'm that close, I might as well try," Smith said.
Said Pinkel: "The goal line is the goal line."
In other words, not even Pinkel expects Smith to back off or shy away from making plays when it's that close. Pinkel is more concerned about the plays in the middle of the field, when Smith chooses not to slide.
"Knowing Brad, he's looking at this going, ‘If I'd have stayed up, I could have done this or this," Pinkel said.
Smith acknowledges it's his responsibility to stay alive out there, and in the end, he is his own best protection.
"It's not hard to slide, I just have to make up my mind to do it," Smith said.