Brad Smith had 95 total yards, clearly his worst game as a Tiger. He had a spy on him on every play, if not two, yet over and over again he tried to run his way to first downs after coverage collapsed, as if the Kansas defense was going to give him the same kind of leeway Middle Tennessee did. It seems he is having trouble getting set, and also he had center A.J. Ricker are having problems with shotgun snaps. When it comes down to it, Smith was a non-factor in this game, the first time anyone has been able to say that.
Running backs: B
Zack Abron was the best thing going for the Tigers all day. He ran for big gains over and over again, running for 6.6 yards per carry. Yet he only had 17 carries, which isn't a whole lot. He slipped on one run that should have gone for a touchdown, but the Tigers would score later anyway, so that didn't affect the game in the end.
Wide receivers: D
So yeah, Smith is having trouble seeing coverage and making throws. But these guys aren't getting open enough. Other than Victor Sesay, not a single receiver had more than eight yards on Saturday. Eight yards. Not enough. Smith can't be the only one to blame for a faulty passing game.
Offensive line: C-
Smith was sacked twice, and that doesn't count the several runs he had were he went down for loss. Once again, the line could not set the tempo early. Ricker is having serious problems with snaps, once hiking it to Smith when he wasn't ready, and then hiking it 22 yards behind Smith when Missouri was trying to make a drive at the end of the half. Ricker and Rob Droege both admitted to having horrible days in one of the most important games of the season.
Defensive line: D+
Credit Brian Smith for his sixth sack of the season, which will most likely keep him as one of the nation's leaders. Six tackles for a loss from the defensive line, though, don't come close to making up for all of the times the defensive line lost contain on Bill Whittemore at some of the most important times.
It seemed like James Kinney and Brandon Barnes were in on every tackle Saturday, but it comes down to making execution and making stops, and these guys weren't there when it mattered, and Kinney admitted to it. Kinney had 17 tackles, but no one on this defense gets a better grade than a C- after such a lackluster performance.
In the second quarter, Kansas receiver Moderi Johnson was so wide open, there wasn't a Missouri player within 15 yards of him. If he doesn't drop that pass, Missouri would have been out of the game then. Kansas was able to get the plays on third down almost every time it needed it. Whittemore only had 111 passing yards, but he could complete passes at the most important times. Missouri kept taking it on the chin again and again. Nino Williams dropped an easy interception for the second consecutive game, and Calvin Washington had a very costly face mask penalty.
Special teams: D-
Brock Harvey was horrible. Take away his first punt of 60 yards, which Kansas returned for 61 yards, and Harvey averaged only 31 yards a punt on the next five punts. He has not had anything going for him since the Illinois game. Missouri's kick returners put the Tigers in lousy field position the whole game while Harvey gave Kansas great field position. Credit Mike Matheny for not messing up, though. He made both his extra points for his first mistake-free game.
Gary Pinkel is right: Mark Mangino outcoached him on Saturday. Mangino had his team fired up, really fired up. The Tigers looked like a ranked team expecting to win the game. The Tigers looked like a team expecting Brad Smith to carry them when things went bad. And include Pinkel in with the Tigers.
After Kansas went ahead 21-14, Missouri got a first down at the Kansas 24, and Zack Abron ran for 7 yards. That's when, instead of letting Abron run for the first or trying to air it out on second-and-short, Missouri ran two Brad Smith runs that combined for a loss of a yard. Punt. Rather than look to Abron, the best player of the day, or some of the Tigers' talented receivers, Pinkel, Dave Christenson and the whole Missouri team looked to Smith to pull it out. Missouri never made the Kansas secondary work to make its plays, and then when the Tigers got the run working it, it abandoned it to go back to Smith. Missouri never had the right calls from start to finish, and neither did it have its attitude. Pinkel lost a big one on Saturday.