Oct. 6, 2003
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KICKOFF: 6:00 p.m. (central time).
STADIUM: Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium (68,349 - FieldTurf surface). Opened in 1927. MU is 212-158-20 there alltime, including 2-0 this season.
RADIO: Tiger Network (Mike Kelly, play-by-play/John Kadlec, color). Carried on 55 stations statewide, and on the Internet at www.mutigers.com.
TV: Superstation TBS. Ron Thulin (play-by-play), Charles Davis (color analyst), Craig Sager (sidelines), Erin Andrews (sidelines), Jay Hoover (producer), Lonnie Dale (director) .
POSTGAME HIGHLIGHT FEED: None.
RANKINGS (AP/ESPN-USA): NU - 10th/7th; MU - Receiving votes in both polls.
SERIES: NU leads, 61-32-3, and has won 24 straight dating back to MU's last win in 1978.
Mizzou: Gary Pinkel (Kent, '75), 13-15 at MU (3rd year) and 86-52-3 overall (13th year).
Pinkel is 0-2 against Nebraska and Frank Solich.
Nebraska: Frank Solich (Nebraska, '66), 54-16 at NU (6th year) and overall. Solich is 5-0 against Missouri and Gary Pinkel.
The University of Missouri (4-1 overall, 0-1 in Big 12 Conference play) returns to action this Saturday when they play host to the 10th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers (5-0, 1-0) in a game that will be shown to a national cable television audience on Superstation TBS at 6 p.m. The game was announced as a sell-out last week, with a capacity crowd of 68,349 expected to be on hand.
Mizzou is looking to rebound from its first defeat of the 2003 season, and had last weekend off after falling by a 35-14 count on Sept. 27th at Kansas. The Tigers held a 14-13 lead after three quarters, but fell victim to a 22-point KU blitz in the fourth period.
Nebraska, which has won 24 straight games over Mizzou since MU's last win in 1978, is steadily climbing up the national rankings, and is coming off a solid 30-0 shutout win at home last weekend over Troy State. The Huskers boast the nation's top overall defensive unit, ranking 1st nationally in total defense (218.60 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (79.60 rating), while they also rank 2nd nationally in scoring defense (7.60 ppg) and turnover margin (+1.80 pg).
Saturday is black out night at faurot
Tiger fans are encouraged to wear as much black as they can stand Saturday for the Nebraska game, as the contest has been designated as the annual "Black Out" game.
The goal of the once-a-year promotion, which began several years ago, is to have as many people as possible wearing black, and the Athletic Department has printed special shirts commemorating the game. Shirts are available at the Tiger Team Store for a very reasonable price.
In a similar vein, the Homecoming game on Oct. 25th vs. Texas Tech has been designated as the annual "Gold Rush" game, where fans are encouraged to wear gold. Souvenir shirts in that color are also available at the Tiger Team Store, as well as on the official MU web site at www.mutigers.com.
MU-NU SERIES HISTORY
Missouri and Nebraska will meet for the 97th time when they tussle Saturday evening in Columbia. The Cornhuskers hold a commanding 61-32-3 lead in the alltime series, thanks in large part to a 24-game winning streak they hold over Mizzou heading into the ballgame.
Mizzou's last win in the series was 25 years ago in Lincoln - a 35-31 win over the #2-ranked Huskers just one week after Nebraska had knocked off previously unbeaten and top-ranked Oklahoma by a 17-14 score in Lincoln.
A fact of dubious distinction shows that the last time MU defeated Nebraska (on Nov. 18, 1978), no current Tiger player was yet alive. The oldest Tiger, senior center Scott Sells, was born just over a year later, on Nov. 26, 1979.
You have to go back even farther to find the last time Mizzou beat Nebraska in Columbia. That came 30 years ago, in 1973, when the 12th-ranked Tigers pulled a 13-12 upset over #2-ranked Nebraska, on Oct. 13, 1973.
Prior to Nebraska's recent dominance, the Mizzou-Nebraska series was a hotly-contested rivalry, as the Huskers led by a slim 37-32-3 count after MU's win in 1978.
A FEW CLOSE CALLS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
While Nebraska has certainly dominated the series in recent years, there have been quite a few games that could have gone either way, as 8 of the games in Nebraska's current 24-game winning streak have been decided by 10 points or less.
Most notable would be the 1997 game that Nebraska ended up winning 45-38 in overtime - a game that will forever be known at MU as the "flea-kicker game."
Top-ranked Nebraska trailed by 7 points and faced a 3rd-and-10 from the MU 12 with just 7 seconds left in the game. Nebraska QB Scott Frost threw into the endzone, and the ball ricocheted off the chest of intended receiver Shevin Wiggins as MU's Julian Jones wrestled him to the ground. As the ball fluttered toward the ground and it appeared MU would finally break the Husker hex, Wiggins' left leg flew skyward in a bicycle kick motion that knocked the ball up and backwards over his head. Nebraska's WR Matt Davison came out of nowhere to make a diving catch just before the ball hit the ground for a touchdown that saved the game, and Nebraska's eventual national title. Nebraska tied the game with a PAT and eventually won in overtime to pull out a win in a game that was labeled an "Instant Classic" by ESPN Classic.
The next year, in 1998 in Lincoln, Missouri lost 20-13, but was throwing into the endzone on the final series of a game that could have gone either way. Last season in Lincoln, three of the games' first four scores went in Mizzou's favor, but the Tigers could muster only a 13-7 lead before Nebraska stormed back with 17 unanswered points to eventually win, 24-13.
LAST YEAR: NEBRASKA 24, MIZZOU 13
A stilfing second half performance by the Nebraska defense paved the way for the Huskers' 24th straight win over Missouri, as Nebraksa prevailed in a hard-fought game, 24-13 in Lincoln.
Mizzou came out of the gates strong, notching 3 of the game's first 4 scores, on a short TD run by Zack Abron and a pair of field goals by Mike Matheny. But the Tigers could only manage a 13-7 lead midway through the 2nd quarter, and after MU misfired on a crucial 4th and 2 deep in Nebraska territory, the Huskers marched 66 yards on 6 plays to take a 14-13 lead at halftime, and regained momentum.
The teams traded punts in the 3rd quarter, but Nebraska's DeJuan Groce provided a huge blow when he returned one 89 yards for a TD with 7:24 left in the quarter to stake the Huskers to a 21-13 lead. Mizzou would cross midfield only once the rest of the way.
The Tiger offense was held to a season-low 220 yards, including just 97 on the ground. Mizzou came into the game averaging 221 yards rushing and well over 400 yards of total offense per game.
It was truly a tale of two halves, as the Tigers moved the ball well in the opening two quarters. Mizzou compiled 192 yards of total offense in the first half, but could manage only 28 more in the final 30 minutes, on a total of only 23 plays.
WARREN POWERS REUNION
As noted, the last time that Mizzou defeated Nebraska was in 1978, when a former Husker player by the name of Warren Powers was MU's head man. Powers, along with at least 70 of his former Tiger players, are scheduled to be in attendance for this Saturday's game, in conjunction with a reunion put together by the MU Athletic Department.
The Warren Powers era reunion begins Friday evening with a reception and continues Saturday with a group get-together prior to the game. The group will also attend the MU-Nebraska game Saturday, and will be honored on the field during the first half.
Powers was MU's head coach from 1978-84, and is MU's 3rd-winningest coach of alltime, with a career record of 46-33-3 (.580) in his 7 years at the helm. Powers led MU to bowl games in 5 of his 7 seasons at MU.
Bring on the night lights
Saturday will mark the 18th night game played at Faurot Field/Memorial Stadium when the Tigers and Huskers tangle. In the previous 17 night games, MU stands at 9-8 overall, including 2-3 under Head Coach Gary Pinkel.
Mizzou played 2 night games at Faurot Field last season, winning the 2002 home opener over Ball State by a 41-6 count, and later falling to 3rd-ranked Oklahoma in a 31-24 thriller.
The biggest crowd at Faurot for a night game came against Nebraska in 1999, when 68,174 fans saw the Huskers post a 40-10 win.
Tigers lead nation in two statistical categories
A search of the latest NCAA statistics shows that MU leads the nation in two categories that relate to turnovers.
In the turnovers lost category, MU leads the nation, with just 2 turnovers committed (both came in the form of lost fumbles in MU's 37-0 win over Eastern Illinois on Sept. 13th). Last season, MU set a school record by committing just 12 turnovers in 12 games.
Additionally, MU is tied for the nation's lead in the passes had intercepted category, with zero. Only MU, Syracuse and Texas have yet to throw an interception in 2003. Four other teams have thrown just one INT thus far (Boise State, Buffalo, Purdue and Houston).
Mizzou is also tied for 9th nationally with only 2 fumbles lost through 5 games. Oklahoma leads the country as the only team to not lose a fumble entering this weekend.
Saturday will prove to be quite a test for the Tigers, as Nebraska brings the nation's top-ranked defense into the game - a squad that ranks 1st nationally in total defense (218.60 ypg) and pass efficiency defense (79.60 rating) and 2nd nationally in points allowed (7.60 pg) and turnover margin (+1.80 pg). Nebraska also ranks 7th in passing yardage allowed (145.80 ypg) coming in.
tigers among nation's best in two other categories
More good news for Tiger fans: Mizzou ranks among the top-10 schools in the country thus far in fewest penalties and average yard per rush. Here's a quick look...
smitty among nation's leaders in QB sacks
Last season, it was a redshirt freshman by the name of Smith who made a huge impact on the Mizzou offense. That Smith, Brad, went on to win Big 12 Freshman of the Year honors after becoming only the 2nd player in NCAA Div. I-A history to throw for 2,000 yards and rush for 1,000 yards in a season.
This year, the Tigers are benefitting from yet another redshirt freshman by the name of Smith - defensive end Brian Smith. 'Smitty,' as he's known among his teammates, is wreaking havoc on the defensive side of the ball in his first year of play for MU. Through 5 games, Smith has 6.5 quarterback sacks, a total which is leads all of the NCAA through games of Sept. 27th.
Smith also leads the Tigers with 8 quarterback hurries and 3 forced fumbles, the latter number which ranks him 12th in the nation through games of Sept. 27th.
More tiger defenders among nation's leadersJunior LB James Kinney is averaging 13.0 tackles per game, which ranks him 7th in the NCAA through games of Sept. 27th...
Sophomore DL C.J. Mosley leads MU with 8.5 tackles per loss (for 24 yards in losses) through 5 games, a per-game average of 1.70 which ranks him 22nd nationally...
Senior CB Michael Harden leads MU with 8 passes broken up, a per-game average of 1.60 which ranks him 30th among individuals nationally.
Several other Tiger defenders rank among the nation's leaders in various categories...
TIGERS RED HOT IN THE RED ZONE
When it reaches the opponents' 25 yardline, Mizzou has been one of the most efficient teams in the Big 12 Conference in taking care of business, as the Tigers rank 3rd in the league heading into the Nebraska game in red zone efficiency.
Mizzou has scored on 20-of-22 trips inside the red zone, good for a success rate of 90.9%. That trails only Oklahoma State (1st - 95.2%) and Oklahoma (2nd - 91.3%) in the league rankings.
Of MU's 20 red zone conversions, 17 of them (85%) have resulted in TDs (8 rush/9 pass). The 2 unsuccessful opportunities came on a missed field goal and a fumble in game 3 vs. Eastern Illinois.
On defense, despite a couple of rough games recently, the Tigers still rank 4th in the Big 12 in red zone defense, allowing 78.9% (15-of-19) success rate for opponents. MU has recovered 2 fumbles and twice stopped opponents on 4th down.
Saturday's game against Nebraska looks to be an interesting matchup from a red zone standpoint, as the Huskers have allowed only 5 opponent drives to reach the red zone, a figure which leads the Big 12 Conference. Opponents have scored 4 TDs in those 5 opportunities thus far.
On offense, Nebraska uncaracteristically ranks 12th in the Big 12 in red zone offense, converting on 70.4% of its opportunties (19-of-27). Five of those missed chances have come on unsuccessful field goal tries, including two Saturday in NU's 30-0 win over Troy State.
last time out: kansas 35, #23 mizzou 14
Mizzou fell from the ranks of the unbeaten in its last game, as the Tigers suffered a 35-14 loss at Kansas on Sept. 27th. MU entered the game having won its first 4 games and was ranked #23 in both national polls, but the Jayhawks showed they weren't intimidated from the start as they took a quick 6-0 lead after a long punt return set up a short score.
The Tigers responded with a long TD drive to take a 7-6 lead after QB Brad Smith scampered in from 4 yards out on a 4th-and-1 play, but the offense couldn't muster any other momentum, and MU trailed 13-7 at halftime.
Behind the running of TB Zack Abron, the Tigers charged into the lead right away in the 2nd half, thanks to a 13-play, 72-yard drive that put MU up 14-13 with 9:49 left in the 3rd quarter. Smith hit WR Darius Outlaw on a 9-yard scoring pass to account for the score, but it was the legs of Abron that carried MU to paydirt, as he ran 7 times for 52 yards, including back-to-back gains of 19 and 22 yards at one point.
Unfortunately for Tiger faithful, that drive marked the high point of the game. MU held a 14-13 lead heading into the 4th quarter, but KU closed the game with a dominant final 15 minutes that saw them score 22 unanswered points to pull away for the win. The Jayhawks scored on a short Clark Green run as the 4th quarter started to regain the lead, then held MU to just 35 total yards in its final 3 possessions as KU took advantage of a short field to pull away.
Mizzou was held to a season-low 192 yards of total offense on the day, and converted just 3-of-15 3rd-down attempts. Abron was the workhorse for the Tigers, as he carried 17 times for a game-high 112 rushing yards. KU's defense held Smith to a career-low 95 yards of total offense, as Smith managed just 62 yards passing and 33 yards rushing, after entering the game averaging 249.0 yards in MU's first 4 contests.
The Tiger defense allowed only 318 yards of total offense to the high-powered KU offensive attack (well below KU's average of 499.75 yards coming in), but MU couldn't stop Jayhawk drives when it needed to late in the game, as KU had 105 yards in the 4th quarter to pull away.
field position was key factor in ku defeat
When you listen to most coaches talk about game factors each week, field position largely comes up as a common point of discussion. That certainly played a key role in MU's defeat last time out at Kansas, as the Jayhawks enjoyed a short field virtually all day long.
Kansas' average starting point on the day was their own 45 yardline, and the Jayhawks took possession 6 times on at least their own 45 or better, including 3 times inside MU territory (on the MU 14, 43 and 49).
Conversely, MU's average starting point on the day was its own 22 yardline, and the best starting position MU had all day long was its own 34. Five of MU's 10 possessions began inside its own 20 yardline.
tigers' remaining schedule rated 17th-toughest by ncaa
Saturday begins a tough stretch in the schedule for Mizzou, as the Tigers' next 6 opponents have either been ranked or received votes at one point this season.
The challenge is stiff early on, as MU will take on top-10 teams in consecutive weeks, in 10th-ranked Nebraska followed by a road trip next week to top-ranked Oklahoma.
It doesn't necessarily get any easier after that as the Tigers host Texas Tech on Oct. 25th for Homecoming, as the Red Raiders are arguably the hottest team around with a juggernaut offensive attack that is leading the nation in total yardage.
In fact, according to NCAA figures, MU's remaining schedule rates as the 17th-toughest in the nation, as the final 7 foes have a combined winning percentage of .667 (24-12 overall).
TIGERS VERSUS ranked TEAMSMizzou is looking to break a 20-game losing streak against teams ranked in the Associated Press Top-25. MU's last win against a ranked opponent was a wild 51-50 double-overtime win over 12th-ranked Oklahoma State in Stillwater, Okla. on Oct. 25, 1997...
Mizzou has lost 45 straight games against top-10 teams, and is 16-100 alltime (.138 winning percentage) against teams ranked in the AP Top-10. MU's last win over a top-10 team came back on Oct. 3, 1981 at Mississippi State, as the unranked Tigers beat the 9th-ranked Bulldogs, 14-3...
Mizzou is 1-7 alltime playing against the AP's No. 10 team. The one win came in 1939 against Nebraska, when the 14th-ranked Tigers won a 27-13 game at home...
more ranking notesMizzou has played 41 games alltime against a ranked Nebraska opponent, and stands 7-34 in those games. Four of those wins came in a 6-game stretch spanning from 1973-78 when MU defeated the Huskers when they were #2 (13-12 in Columbia in 1973 and 35-31 in Lincoln in 1978), #12 (21-10 in Lincoln in 1974), and #3 (34-24 in Lincoln in 1976)...
Mizzou has played 86 games at home against ranked teams, and stands 21-64-1 alltime in those affairs...
Mizzou's last win at home against a top-10 team was a 9-0 shutout win over 9th-ranked Arizona State in 1974. MU has lost 30 straight home games against top-10 teams since that win...
MIZZOU IS NCAA'S ALLTIME OVERTIME KING
Overtime is becoming old hat around Mizzou. Since the rule was put into effect for the 1996 season, Mizzou leads the nation with 9 overtime games played. With MU's 41-40 OT recent win against Middle Tennessee State, the Tigers improved to 6-3 alltime in overtime games, a win total which also is most in the NCAA.
Mizzou went 1-1 last season in overtime affairs, dropping a tough 42-35 home overtime game to #18 Colorado and the very next week winning a 33-27 double overtime thriller at Texas A&M, the week after A&M beat #1-ranked Oklahoma on the same field.
Mizzou made some history with its consecutive overtime games - that marked the first time in NCAA history that a Div. I-A team played overtime games in consecutive weeks.
Interestingly, MU Head Coach Gary Pinkel won the very first overtime game played in Division I history when his Toledo Rockets beat Nevada, 40-37, in the 1995 Las Vegas Bowl. The overtime rule was put into effect for that bowl season, and has been in use ever since.
Pinkel is now 5-1 alltime in his career in overtime games, including 3-1 at Mizzou.
zack attack keeps climing MU CAREER RUSHING LIST
Senior TB Zack Abron entered the season having quietly amassed one of the best rushing careers in MU history. He's not the flashy, speed-burner type that wows people, and maybe that's why he's sort of flown under the radar, if you will.
The fact is, however, that with 2,523 career rushing yards entering Saturday's game vs. 10th-ranked Nebraska, Abron has a shot at becoming MU's alltime career leading rusher if he produces just 504 more yards this season (he'd need to average 72.0 yards per game in MU's remaining 7 regular season games). He entered the 2003 season ranked 8th on MU's career rushing chart, with 2,043 yards, and his current total puts him 5th on the yardage chart.
Abron is coming off a 112-yard day last time out vs. Kansas - marking his 2nd straight game over the century mark and the 9th of his Tiger career. He notched the 1st 100 yard rushing day of his 2003 season two games ago when he tallied a game-best 138 yards on 18 attempts vs. Middle Tennessee State. He added a 2nd quarter TD scamper from 8 yards out that put MU up 23-14. Earlier in the 2nd quarter, he raced 64 yards around left end - a gain that represented a career long.
His career point total of 204 ranks him 4th currently in MU history, and he needs just 5 more TDs to surpass former QB Corby Jones for the MU career record for points (228) and TDs scored (38). Abron has 34 career TDs (32 rushing/2 receiving).
Abron rushed for 91 yards and 2 TDs against Eastern Illinois. His TDs came from 5 yards out and 25 yards out, the latter coming on a 4th-and-1 from the EIU 25 yardline in the 3rd quarter that put MU up, 21-0.
Abron had 79 yards rushing at Ball State, on 18 carries. He scored 2 TDs, on runs of 1 and 5 yards.
A virtual lock to pick up short yardage situations, Abron is 6-of-7 on 3rd-and-1 situations on the year, and is 4-of-4 on 4th-and-1 tries thus far. He has also developed into a pass-catching threat, as he has caught 15 passes for 108 yards thru 5 games thus far, already surpassing his career total of 8 catches for 56 yards in his previous 3 seasons.
Abron was held to 60 yards rushing in 21 attempts in the season opener vs. Illinois, but made many key plays that helped the Tigers earn the hardfought 22-15 victory. His first big play was a 1-yard TD scamper around right end on 4th-and-goal from the Illinois 1 that put MU ahead 7-3 in the 1st quarter.
Abron later made two huge plays in MU's game-winning 4th-quarter TD drive. The first was a 17-yard run around left end that put MU in Illinois territory. At the tail end of the play, the ball was popped loose as he was heading out of bounds. The ball went out of bounds along with Abron, but he was officially charged with a fumble, and that broke a streak of 182 consecutive carries without a fumble.
He shrugged off the fumble three plays later when he took a swing pass out of the backfield for a crucial 19-yard gain (MU's longest play of the game) on a 3rd-and-11that took the ball down to the Illini 27-yardline. In all, Abron accounted for 38 of MU's 78 yards on the game-winning drive. His 3 catches and 34 receiving yards on the day marked career bests, as well.
Brad Smith: ordinary name, extraordinary talent
After a redshirt freshman season that saw QB Brad Smith break numerous records and grab virtually every prominent conference and national freshman award, Smith is at it again in his second go-around.
Listed in the preseason as the No. 4 Heisman candidate by Sports Illustrated, No. 7 by the Sporting News and among the top-10 according to CBSSportsline.com, Smith has not disappointed, as he became the first quarterback to lead MU to a 4-0 start to the season since 1981. Smith heads into the Nebraska game ranked 45th in the NCAA in total offense, with an average of 218.20 yards per game. His QB efficiency rating of 135.92 ranks 40th in the NCAA, and is up significantly from his season mark of 117.34 set last year as a freshman. He's turned in 3 of his 5 most efficient passing days of his career this season (see following chart).
Smith enjoyed one of the most efficient passing days of his young career recently, as he completed 26-of-33 passes for a season-high 236 yards and 2 TDs with no interceptions in MU's 37-0 win over Eastern Illinois.
Smith's completion percentage of 66.94% (83-of-124) ranks 10th in the NCAA thus far, and he is one of only 5 QBs ranked among the top 100 nationally in passing efficiency who have not thrown an interception entering Saturday's game.
A few quick career updates regarding Smith:In just 17 career games, Smith already ranks 5th on the school total yardage chart, with 4,453 yards entering the Nebraska game...
With the 4-1 start to the season, Smith's career record as a starting QB is now 9-8...
With a career passing total of 3,037 yards entering Saturday's game against NU, Smith stands in 8th place on the MU career passing yardage list...
Smith has thrown just 6 interceptions in 490 career passes, good for a microscopic interception percentage of 1.2% (a school record), or once in every 82 passes...
Smith carries a string of 137 consecutive passes thrown without an interception into Saturday's game vs. Nebraska. His last pick came in game #12 last year against Kansas St. when he was picked off in the 2nd quarter by KSU All-American Terrence Newman. He threw 13 more passes in that game without being intercepted and has thrown 124 this season without an INT.
This comes after a season in which Smith amassed 3,362 yards of total offense (an MU record), and became only the 2nd player in Division IA history to throw for 2,000 yards (2,333 to be exact) and rush for 1,000 yards (1,029) in the same season.
While his numbers weren't eye-popping in the season opener vs. Illinois, he still did enough to get his team the all-important victory. He was an efficient 12-of-16 passing for 102 yards and 2 TDs on the day, and added a team-high 66 yards rushing. With MU trailing 15-14 midway through the 4th quarter, Smith took over the game and led the Tigers to a 13-play, 78-yard drive that culminated with his 6-yard scoring strike to WR Darius Outlaw with 4:12 left. Smith followed by successfully running in a 2-point conversion on the old "swinging gate" play to account for the final margin.
On the game-winning drive, Smith accounted for 59 of the 78 yards, as he carried 6 times for 20 yards and was a perfect 3-of-3 passing for 39 yards.
Marcus James breaks MU CAREER return RECORD
Senior WR/KR Marcus James only got one chance to return a kick last time out at Kansas, but his one return was an important one, as his 13-yard kickoff return late in the game gave him 112 career combined returns. That gave him the MU career record for total number of combined returns, breaking the old standard of 111 set by former standout Mike Fink (1970-72).
James is also just 137 return yards away from breaking Fink's career combined kick return record of 1,692. He enters Saturday's game with 1,556 combined yards in returns, and that breaks down to 66 career punt returns for 735 yards (an average of 11.1 which is just behind the MU career record of 11.5 set by Roger Wehrli) and 46 kickoff returns for 821 yards (an average of 17.9 per return).
James in averaging a healthy 19.5 yards per punt return in his last 3 games.
A wonderful young man who is a great representative of the University, James is currently the President of the MU Student-Athlete Advisory Council. He spoke on recently (Sept. 24th) to nearly 200 athletic department staff members who attended the department's monthly full staff meeting.
smith and outlaw steal the late-game heroics
QB Brad Smith is quickly becoming known for his late-game heroics, as he has led MU to 4th quarter comeback wins twice already this season, and WR Darius Outlaw is his willing accomplice, no pun intended.
The duo came up big recently, as MU faced dire straits late in their Sept. 20 game versus Middle Tennessee State. MU trailed by a 34-26 count with just 5:11 left in the game. As noted previously, Smith took over, as he accounted for 74 total yards in an 11-play, 73-yard drive that ended in his 12-yard scoring strike to Outlaw with 1:17 left in the game. Smith ran in the 2-pt. conversion to tie the game and send it to overtime, where he scored the Tigers' TD on a 3-yard keeper.
In the Tigers' season opener vs. Illinois, Smith notched his first 4th-quarter comeback win, as he rallied MU from a 15-14 deficit to a 22-14 win. MU trailed 15-14 when it took over on its own 22 yardline with 10:36 remaining in the game. Smith calmly led the Tigers on a 13-play, 78-yard march that ended with his 6-yard TD pass to Outlaw with 4:12 left in the game. Similar to this past Saturday, Smith ran in the 2-pt. conversion to stake the Tigers to a 22-15 lead that they held onto as the defense stopped Illinois deep in Tiger territory.
OUTLAW MAKING OUT LIKE A BANDIT DOWN THE STRETCH
As noted previously in these notes, senior WR Darius Outlaw is becoming MU's clutch receiver, as he has caught game-winning or game-tying 4th-quarter TD passes now in 2 of Mizzou's first 5 games this season.
His first clutch grab was a 6-yard TD reception against Illinois with 4:12 left in the game that gave MU the lead back at 21-15 (MU tacked on a 2-pt. conversion and eventually won 22-15). His last catch was a spectacular diving tightrope act in the left corner of the endzone in week 4 against Middle Tennessee, when he hooked up with QB Brad Smith from 12 yards out with just 1:17 left to give MU a chance to send the game into overtime as the Tigers trailed 34-26 before his catch.
Outlaw, who came to MU as a quarterback, and played under center during the 2000 and 2001 seasons, moved to receiver just prior to last season. Despite never having played receiver before, Outlaw ranked 2nd on the team in 2002 with 46 receptions for 552 yards and 3 TDs. He's got 21 catches for 128 yards and 4 TDs already in 2003.
With 320 more receiving yards this season, Outlaw will reach 1,000 for his career. That would give him the distinction of being the only Tiger to have amassed 1,000 passing yards (1,729 entering the 2003 season) and 1,000 receiving yards in his career.
He's also one of the better feel-good stories on the team, as he's overcome some academic obstacles to be where he is today. Outlaw came to MU as a partial qualifier intially, and later served an academic suspension prior to 2002 that put his career in limbo. But he persevered through and not only regained status in the program, but he did the work to earn his 5th year of eligibility from the NCAA, and he's taking advantage.
ricker to make it 40 straight STARTS AT CENTER
Junior center A.J. Ricker has been as dependable as they come. The Houston, Texas native, who is a pre-season candidate for the Rimington Award, has started all 39 games in his collegiate career for Mizzou. The last time someone other than Ricker started at center for Mizzou was 1999. He'll make it 40 straight starts when he takes the field Saturday against Nebraska.
The MU record for consecutive starts is 42, co-held by Rob Riti (1996-99) and Mike Bedosky (1990-93). Since Ricker directly followed Riti, and Riti played center exclusively from 1997-99, that means that only two people have started at center for MU since 1997.
Ricker is the leader of an offensive line which currently ranks 13th in the nation in rushing, averaging a healthy 212.40 yards per game on the ground.
Ricker was a key component of 2001's offensive line that helped pave the way for MU to rank 5th in the Big 12 in rushing. The Tiger O-Line also allowed just 6 sacks in 2001, which was the 3rd-lowest total in the nation.
Last season, he led a unit that had Missouri rolling along, as the Tigers ranked 5th in the Big 12 (37th in the NCAA) in rushing (183.67 ypg), 5th in the Big 12 & 45th in the NCAA in total offense (386.83 ypg) and 43rd in the NCAA in scoring (30.00 ppg).
Ricker was voted a team captain during fall camp by his teammates.