Gary Pinkel couldn't hold back his giddiness when he said Brad Smith was only a sophomore, because Smith assaulted record books Saturday. His 291 yards rushing yards are a Big 12 record for a quarterback and second in NCAA history. He only needed 19 carries to do it, too, and averaged 15.3 yards a carry. He still threw for 128 yards on 24 attempts. Smith baffled the Texas Tech defense all day, and he didn't turn the ball over despite having the ball in his hands for 43 plays. Tech's B.J. Symons certainly can't say that.
Running backs: A
Zack Abron was exactly what he needed to be. His consistent play, which resulted in 139 yards on 25 carries, allowed the Missouri offense to do everything it did. Half of Smith's draws and scrambles came on play action, taking defenders away from the holes Smith would hit. Abron tied the Missouri all-time touchdown record with 38. Is it time to put Smith and Abron up with Corby Jones and Devin West as the best backfield in Missouri history? It's certainly getting close. Damien Nash also had a good showing, and he got 10 much-needed carries.
Wide Receivers: B
Clearly, Missouri didn't throw the ball too much, and Smith missed some receivers, so it's not the receivers fault that none had more than three carries. Brad Ekwerekwu continues to open up the passing game. He has shown great progress already in his route-running.
Offensive line: A
They had an amazing game, even better than the Nebraska game. The running game was there all day. Missouri rushed 55 times, compared to only 24 throws. That kind of game strategy rarely worked, but it did Saturday because the offensive line gave Smith and Abron all sorts of holes to work with. Smith had plenty of time to throw, too.
Defensive line: B+
The had only one sack, but the defensive linemen did a great job of putting pressure on Symons, although the blitzing linebackers and secondary also had a big hand in that. Russ Bell put a monster hit on Symons, and eventually the hits led to his leaving the game. Linebackers: A
How about Brandon Barnes? He hadn't shown much up to this point, but he had a monster game with two interceptions and a forced fumble. And he could have had another interception, but he dropped it on purpose on a late fourth down and long. Clearly, those days at receiver and safety helped him in a more coverage-oriented scheme. James Kinney also had an interception. Tech went to these guys' turf, and the Missouri linebackers guarded that turf properly.
Giving up 437 yards passing is like an honor against Texas Tech. The corners got embarrassingly beat for touchdowns on a couple plays, but for the most part, they did such a good job of disguising their coverage that Symons didn't know who was guarding whom. They also took away the first read on most of the plays, making Symons take more time to look, which gave the pressure time to get to him.
Special teams: B-
A great day with one big, huge exception. Brock Harvey inexplicably returned to the lineup, and he had a horrible day with no hangtime and an average of only 31.3 yards per punt. Not going to work, and it's even worse against such a potent offense like Tech's. Otherwise, Shirdonya Mitchell was amazing on kick returns, including a 46-yarder. Mike Matheny made two 33-yard field goals, but then kicked another kickoff out of bounds. He is making kicking off look unbelievably hard.
Gary Pinkel knew this: if he could keep his offense on the field for a long time, that Tech defense would fold. He also knew this: if he gave Symons pressure and disguised looks, he could buckle. Both worked unbelievably well, and now Pinkel is heading to a bowl game and Missouri has a realistic shot at nine, if not 10, wins. It took some serious guts to run a draw on third and 22, but Pinkel did it and Smith took care of the rest. The substitution plan on defense worked almost perfectly. Altogether, Pinkel put together a great gameplan to rout the nation's top offensive team.