On a night of surprises in the Big 12 North, Missouri got three touchdown passes from junior QB Brad Smith and dominated defensively, pulling away late for a 30-10 win at Baylor, its first conference road victory since Nov. 16, 2002.
With a 9 p.m. start, the Tigers (4-1) knew Nebraska, Kansas State and Colorado had already lost. Nebraska took a 70-10 thumping at Texas Tech, the worst loss in Cornhusker history, while Kansas State lost to Kansas for the first time in 11 years. Missouri faced a similar trap at Baylor, but avoided it with a dominating defense that held the Bears without a first down in the third quarter and forced four turnovers, the biggest of which came from junior S Jason Simpson late in the first half.
Simpson picked off a Dane King pass near midfield and nearly returned it for a score before he was dragged down from behind at the Baylor 8. Missouri scored two plays later, when junior QB Brad Smith found freshman TE Martin Rucker, who leaped over two defenders to make the catch, giving Missouri a 13-3 lead with 1:41 left in the half.
Missouri opened the second half with an aggressive offense unseen in the first half. The Tigers moved 69 yards on eight plays, racking up 60 yards through the air. Smith found junior WR Sean Coffey for the drive's biggest play, a 32-yard gain that included Coffey adjusting to catch the underthrown pass. Six plays later, Smith found Rucker for the freshman's second score, this one an 18-yard conversion with 11:19 left in the third quarter.
Smith threw his third touchdown pass and extended the Missouri lead to 27-3 on the second play of the fourth quarter, an 8-yard score to Coffey in the back of the end zone. Junior K Joe Tantarelli capped Missouri's scoring with a 30-yard field goal after senior LB James Kinney recorded his second fumble recovery.
The Tiger defense allowed just 138 yards, including 67 yards on 26 rushing attempts. Baylor's best weapon was P Daniel Sepulveda, who averaged 50 yards on his seven punts. Sophomore DE Brian Smith was all over the field for the Tigers, recording three sacks and a forced fumble.
The Missouri offense sputtered until Rucker's score, often unable to capitalize on great field position. Neither team was strong offensively throughout the game, but Missouri had plenty of chances early. Senior CB Shirdonya Mitchell intercepted a King pass at the Baylor 29 three plays into the game. The Tigers drove to the 20 before Tantarelli missed his fourth consecutive field goal, this one wide left from 37 yards.
Tantarelli converted from 22 yards later in the quarter to end his streak. More than halfway through the first quarter, Missouri led 3-0 and Baylor had not made a first down.
Four drives later, Missouri pieced together one of its most time-consuming jaunts of the season, taking 18 plays to drive 61 yards to the Baylor 3, where Tantarelli converted from 20 yards. The drive was hampered by two consecutive false start penalties, leading to a fourth-and-21 at the Baylor 31. Missouri miraculously converted, as Smith found senior WR Thomson Omboga in triple coverage for a 24-yard gain. Missouri could not convert from there but took a 6-0 lead on Tantarelli's field goal.
Missouri won despite struggling on the offensive line, which could not establish the running game against an unimpressive Baylor front four. Junior TB Damien Nash was stifled all evening, managing just one long run, a 27-yard gain off left tackle late in the third quarter. Nash finished with 87 yards on 27 carries, but he was mostly ineffective.
Smith was also uncharacteristically quiet on the ground, finding himself scrambling away from pressure instead of gaining yards downfield. He finished with 42 yards on 12 carries.
Missouri continues its Lone Star state road trip with a visit to Austin to face the Longhorns next Saturday.