Tigers Serve Up Upset Special With 33-20 Win Over Illinois

MUTIGERS.COM The Tigers managed to pound out 436 yards of total offense.
The Tigers managed to pound out 436 yards of total offense.

Aug 31, 2002

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AP Sports Writer

ST. LOUIS - Redshirt freshman quarterback Brad Smith ran for 138 yards and passed for 152 in his debut, leading Missouri to a 33-20 upset of Illinois on Saturday.

Zack Abron shrugged off two lost fumbles and ran for 116 yards and two touchdowns, and the Tigers' defense stuffed the defending Big Ten champions, who went 10-2 last year.

Illinois averaged a school-record 32 points last year but struggled under new quarterback Dustin Ward, the backup to Kurt Kittner the previous two seasons who was making his second career start.

Smith, who became the first freshman in school history to start an opener, beat out senior Kirk Farmer for the No. 1 job in the spring and was difficult to contain all day. He sealed the victory with a 24-yard fourth-quarter touchdown run that gave Missouri a 33-14 lead. He also had a 39-yard run in the third. Throwing the ball, Smith was 15-for-26.

Abron had 116 yards on 26 carries, giving Missouri its first pair of 100-yard rushers since the Tigers beat Western Michigan in 1999.

Ward played three ineffective quarters before getting benched, going 9-for-21 for 124 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Ward's replacement, Jon Beutjer, hit Brandon Lloyd for an 18-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver Justin Gage celebrates the Tigers' victory.

James Kinney's 46-yard fumble recovery with 5:31 to go in the third quarter put Missouri ahead for good at 20-14. Antwaun Bynum's hit on Ward knocked the ball loose and right into the hands of Kinney, who walked a few steps before realizing the play was live, then ran untouched into the end zone.

The Tigers began this season as seven-point underdogs to Illinois, but they overcame two botched field-goal attempts to end the Fighting Illini's nine-game winning streak against non-conference opponents.

Illinois, playing in front of 61,876 at neutral-site Edward Jones Dome, also had won seven straight regular-season games overall.

The teams met for the first time since 1994. An NCAA rule allowing 12 games this season and in 2003 made the series possible, with the teams returning to St. Louis for the opener next year.



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