At times, Smith made the impossible look very possible. But for the most part, Kansas State again did the impossible of containing Smith, who had only 26 yards rushing. His passing was off and on, completing 14-of-28 passes for 155 yards. His interception in the end zone was very costly, and he missed Darius Outlaw on that pass.
Running backs: A
Who's going to blame Zack Abron for this one? The answer is no one. Abron got only one run in the first half while Missouri mysteriously changed its game plan. When it went back to running Abron in the second half, he only ran eight times for 70 yards. He seemed as mystified as anyone why he didn't get more chances.
Wide Receivers: C+
Brad Ekwerekwu had a costly drop, but his offensive pass interference penalty saved an interception. Darius Outlaw's 35-yard reception at the end was impressive, as was a diving catch he made in the first half as a Wildcat defender jumped in front of him. But a drop here and there hurt Missouri's chances of getting drives going.
Offensive line: C
There was pressure on Brad Smith all day. He was flushed out of the pocket on almost every pass attempt, and that hurt the Tigers, especially on the interception. Smith also had no holes to get started with on the run. He's hard to stop once he gets free, but that didn't happen much. Holes didn't start showing up until Missouri went back to Abron.
Defensive line: D
Like Smith, once Darren Sproles gets going, he's hard to stop. The line kept letting Sproles get going, with massive lanes opening up in the middle. Even with Kansas State running on 69 of 85 plays, Missouri still couldn't figure a way to keep Sproles down.
James Kinney left the game in the first half with an injury, one he would not disclose after the game. That hurt the Tigers' ability to turn those 10-yard Sproles runs into 3-yard runs. Sproles was able to burst into the secondary rather easily. Henry Sweat, though, was reliable in unexpected relief.
It's hard to grade the secondary when Kansas State so rarely tested it. The players in the secondary missed some tackles that could have shortened Sproles' runs, but the secondary never allowed too many receivers to be too open, even with Roberson escaping the pocket. Nino Williams' interception was thrown right to him, but he did a good job of running it back.
Special teams: D
What is going on with Brock Harvey? He started off ice cold with puts of 35 and 23 yards, but then he kicked a 43-yarder. Then he kicks what was supposed to be a coffin-corner kick out of the back of the end zone. His inconsistency made it even easier for Kansas State early, and that's when the Wildcats hurt the Tigers the most. Mike Matheny almost made a 62-yard field goal, which would have tied Missouri's all-time record. The returners didn't get much of chance.
Two words: Zack. Abron. Were Gary Pinkel and Dave Christenson watching the same game as everyone else? After Abron went for only 1 yard on the first play of the game, he didn't see the ball until the second half. Missouri has been winning games the way Kansas State won Sunday: by dominating with the run. Missouri abandoned it from the start, and it gave the Wildcats a chance to jump on Missouri early. When Abron got a chance in the second half, he proved the coaches completely wrong. Missouri had so many tricks up its sleeves, it forgot the way it had gotten to the point to even be in contention for the division title, and in the end, it cost them that chance.
Pinkel's management at the end of the game was just as bad as the play-calling at the beginning. Down 14 with less than eight minutes left, Pinkel elects to punt from the Missouri 45, even though nothing his defense had done in the game to that point to prove it could force a three-and-out. Kansas State then ran off four more minutes, and Missouri got the ball back with four minutes left needing two touchdowns. After the Tigers scored and failed on the onside kick, Pinkel didn't use any of his timeouts as Kansas State ran off the clock. It's hard to make sense of this, considering Pinkel has never been one to simply concede defeat, especially in such an important game. Unlike past seasons, it didn't matter here how much Missouri won or lost by; all that mattered was whether it won or lost, period.
And it lost.