Repeat of defeat: Smith topples Huskers

Here's the game plan: Get down by a bunch and come back. Yeah, not exactly prudent planning, but it's worked for the Huskers thus far. That plan had worked against Missouri as well, but someone forgot to tell Nebraska there was a second half of football to play. That's when Nebraska got down yet again, but there was no comeback for NU as Missouri literally ran away from the Huskers, besting them 41-24.

If the Husker fans didn't appreciate the final score of the Nebraska/Missouri game two years ago, the Tigers decided to remind them by posting the exact same score.

 

Unlike two years ago, this wasn't a last quarter collapse, where Brad Smith ran and passed his way to a scoring barrage, he and his Tigers taking advantage of Husker mistakes.

 

This year it took two quarters.

 

The Huskers had for three weeks now been considered that team that wouldn't die. They let Baylor get on the board quickly, but came back. They let Texas Tech get out to a huge lead, but came back. They did that against Missouri and yes, they came back again.

 

However, Missouri forgot to die or at least, Brad Smith refused to let them.

 

"He dominated us," Callahan said of Smith, whose 246 yards rushing is the most ever given up by a Husker defense, surpassing the total set back in 1979 by Oklahoma running back Billy Sims.

 

Smith did dominate, but for a time it looked like Nebraska did indeed have the all-everything QB figured out. While Smith started off the game with a flurry, running for 145 yards, while passing for 142, Smith managed just 5 yards rushing in the second quarter, while passing for a total of 15 yards.

 

With Smith collared for the moment, Nebraska took advantage, adding to first quarter Jordan Congdon field goal, Zac Taylor hitting Todd Peterson for a 34 yard touchdown strike, along with hitting Nate Swift from eight yards out for another score.

 

Missouri had answered with a field goal, but when the halftime had came, what was at one point a 21-3 deficit was all tied up at 24 each.

 

Smith once again took over.

 

"It's a double-edged sword," Callahan said of trying to stop Smith. "You try to stop him in the running game and he starts throwing it. You stop the throwing game and obviously, you open up the lanes inside."

 

"There's a fine balance to what you commit to numerically and obviously, they read us, no huddled us pretty effectively and they made the plays they needed to make and we didn't."

 

One of the plays was a 79-yard run for a touchdown, the longest of Smith's career and amongst the top ten in regard to the longest rushes the Huskers had ever given up in a game. It was also the run that moved Smith into second place all-time in NCAA history for quarterback rushing touchdowns.

 

That was in the first half, which the Huskers managed to stave off. And as defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove said, they were certain that in the second half they could do the same thing. "We didn't get into a rhythm early, that was obvious, but we started to feel real good after that," Cosgrove said.

 

"It felt good going into the half, like we had things under control."

 

While momentum seemed to be on their side, Nebraska went three and out to start the second half, but from Cosgrove's perspective, the most telling drive came after that.

 

Missouri took the ball from Nebraska after they punted it away and in 10 plays, went 97 yards, finishing it off appropriately with a 45-yard jaunt to the end zone by Brad Smith.

"That kind of broke our back a little bit," Cosgrove said. "We didn't play well after that."

 

The defense will take some of the lumps from \Smith's gaudy performance, but the offense certainly didn't help. "We had an opportunity to get back in it, but a turnover was very costly and additionally, we had an additional turnover that factored into their win," Coach Callahan said.

 

It was actually three turnovers the Huskers committed in the second half…………consecutively.

 

The first was an interception Taylor threw, one of two he would ultimately throw in that half, that also the total for the game. The interception made by Missouri defensive end Brian Smith gave the Tigers first and 10 at Nebraska's 25. Taylor finished with 281 yards passing on 22-of-43 attempts, throwing two scores, while being sacked four times.

 

The defense did managed to hold stiff, giving up only a field goal and the Huskers took control of the clock and committed mammoth mistakes number two, a fumble by sophomore receiver Terrence Nunn as he took a Zac Taylor, was seemingly headed for the end zone, but had the ball forced out by Missouri's Jason Simpson, the Tigers recovering the ball at the Missouri three yard line.

 

The Tigers 97 yard drive that followed that second turnover was significant in putting the Huskers against the wall, but it was the last turnover that put them inside of it. "When you are trying to come back, you can't make those kinds of mistakes," quarterback coach and offensive coordinator Jay Norvell said.

 

The Tigers went into capitalize, ultimately running away with the game, Nebraska defenders puzzled and frustrated in trying to find an answer. They would answer one facet, the Tigers would bring out another. They would answer another, the Tigers would sport something else.

 

No matter what Husker defenders said they would try to do, Missouri always had the answer:

 

Smith

 

"He played his butt off and he deserves the credit for the win," Middle linebacker Corey McKeon said of Brad Smith. "We tried getting him out of the game by hitting him as hard as we could, but he kept getting up and stayed with it."

 

McKeon finished second on the team in tackles 8.5 and was one of four Huskers to get sacks.

 

The loss deflates a Husker team that despite the loss to Texas Tech,  was riding high on their ability to rebound. They weren't able to at least in the second half against an equally resilient Missouri team.

 

The ghosts of last year still haunt this team as questions about whether they can rebound in time for the Oklahoma game abound. Some say this situation is no different than any other. "A loss is a loss," McKeon said. "A loss is just part of football and we are going to play Oklahoma as hard as we can."

 

Junior defensive end Jay Moore agreed:

 

"We have to forget this one after we look at the film," he said. "That's the only way you move on. You just have to forget."

 

Nebraska coaches, players and perhaps even fans will try to do just that. The humiliation of a late-game collapse two years ago was revisited to a degree today. Ironically, the same score was ablaze across the scoreboard as well.

 

It was different, but much the same as it was two years ago, or at least, it had the same X-factor in play.

 

"He's a special player," defensive line coach John Blake said of Brad Smith. "We knew he was a weapon and dangerous and we could create contain and it's hard for one guy to tackle him."

 

The Huskers' record drops to 5-2, 2-2 in the Big 12. Missouri now takes over sole possession of the division lead with a record of 3-1 in the conference, 5-2 overall.

 

Nebraska will host the Oklahoma Sooners next week, the game set to Kickoff at 11:30 A.M. Central Time. Oklahoma takes a 2-1 conference record into tonight's game with Baylor. The Sooners are 3-3 overall.


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