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Smith Runs Away With It

October 26, 2003|Elliott Teaford | Times Staff Writer

The shootout Saturday afternoon at Columbia, Mo., went to the runner rather than the passer.

When the calculators stopped churning out the numbers, Missouri had taken a 62-31 victory from Texas Tech that gave fans a chance to gape at the remarkable and varied talents of quarterbacks Brad Smith and B.J. Symons.

Coming to grips with the cosmic significance of the Tigers' victory, or the Red Raiders' loss, was unnecessary. Better to simply marvel at the feats of Smith, and Symons' flights of fancy, and forget about rankings and standings and bowl possibilities.

In the end, Smith's running proved more useful than Symons' passing.

Smith rushed for 291 yards, a mere 17 short of the NCAA record by a quarterback, and a Missouri-record five touchdowns. Symons completed 40 of 62 passes for 408 yards and four touchdowns, keeping Texas Tech close until Smith ran away with the game with three fourth-quarter touchdowns.

Three interceptions, a season high for Symons, also doomed Texas Tech.

"He's still Superman, that's all I can say," Missouri offensive tackle Rob Droege said of Smith, who scored on runs of 10, 27, two, 41 and 61 yards and also found time to complete 13 of 24 passes for 128 yards.

"He's a special athlete," Missouri Coach Gary Pinkel said of Smith. "He made a lot of plays throwing too."

The difference in the quarterbacks, apart from their contrasting methods of operation, was evident during the first half. Texas Tech had three turnovers on as many possessions, which included interceptions on consecutive passes by Symons.

Those turnovers led to 17 points for Missouri, which led, 34-10, by halftime.

"We lost this game because I'm not a good enough coach to get our defensive players to believe in themselves," said a furious Texas Tech Coach Mike Leach, who did not make his players available to reporters. "We lost this game because I'm not a good enough coach to get our offensive players to play in control when the other team scores a couple of points."

Symons was short of his season average of 500.9 yards passing, and his team fell shy of its average of 47 points. Each average was the nation's best.

Smith's rushing total was the second-best for a game in Missouri history, behind Devin West's 319 yards against Kansas in 1998. Smith also came up short of the NCAA rushing record for a game by a quarterback, set by Northern Illinois' Stacey Robinson with 308 in 1990.

"The whole game we were on eggshells because they're a great offense," Smith said, referring to Symons and the Red Raiders. "They score so quick. Every time they dropped back to pass, it was a big play that could have come."

Thanks for Playing

Time to say buh-bye to these title pretenders:

* No. 3 Virginia Tech went to West Virginia on Wednesday and lost for the first time this season, 28-7, diluting the importance of next week's game against unbeaten Miami.

* No. 4 Georgia, which struggled for the second consecutive week to defeat an inferior opponent. A week after a less-than-inspiring effort against Vanderbilt, these dogs barely squeezed past Conference USA also-ran Alabama Birmingham, 16-13.

* No. 10 Purdue, which was clobbered by No. 13 Michigan, 31-3.

* No. 12 Northern Illinois, which fell from the ranks of the unbeaten with a 34-18 loss to No. 23 Bowling Green.

Your seasons are not officially over, fellows, but any reasonable chance Georgia or Virginia Tech had of playing in the bowl championship series title game at the Sugar Bowl, or Purdue and Northern Illinois had for a BCS bowl bid, is history because of Saturday's results.

Bamboozled Badgers

Northwestern played a game of now-you-see-it, now-you-don't with No. 20 Wisconsin and made the Badgers look silly en route to the Wildcats' first victory over a ranked opponent since defeating Michigan State in 2001.

The Wildcats led, 9-7, late in the game, but a promising drive stalled at the Wisconsin 23-yard line.

Northwestern's kicking game had been laughable to that point, with Joel Howells driving an extra point into a lineman's backside and shanking a 25-yard field-goal try that also did not clear the men in the trenches. After that, Howells was pulled and replaced by punter Brian Huffman.

Wisconsin, and everyone else in the stadium, was faked out when Northwestern pulled off a trick play out of field-goal formation that led to Jason Wright's three-yard touchdown run, which gave the Wildcats a 16-7 victory.

Holder Eric Batis took the snap, slipped the ball between the legs of Herron and ran left with a group of blockers to draw the defense.

Herron doubled over and pretended to block onrushing Badgers. Then, after a few nervous moments, he looked up, took off with the ball and charged toward the end zone. The Badgers finally caught him at the three, after a 20-yard gain.

"I wanted to get up and look around, but I have to keep my head down," Herron said of sweating out that three seconds before taking off with the ball.

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