Pinkel- Smith eager to regain respect
Saturday, September 3, 2005
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- After a disappointing 2004, Missouri quarterback Brad Smith is ready to "earn some respect back" starting today when the Tigers open the season against Arkansas State at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City.
Missouri and Smith come into the 2005 opener with lower expectations than a year ago, when the Tigers were seen as an up-and-coming team and their quarterback was a Heisman Trophy hopeful. Instead, Smith had his worst season and Missouri slipped to 5-6 after going 8-5 in 2003.
Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said Smith, a senior, is ready to put last season behind him.
"I guarantee that there's not a guy more excited about getting going than Brad Smith," Pinkel said. "He wants to earn some respect back."
It wasn't like 2004 was a complete disaster for Smith. But after rushing for 1,406 yards and 18 touchdowns as a sophomore, he ran for just 553 yards and four touchdowns.
Pinkel took the blame for those numbers and has installed a spread offense aimed at giving Smith more options.
Smith was plenty good enough in last season's 52-20 win over Arkansas State, passing for 233 yards and three touchdowns and running for 63 more and a fourth score.
"As you review last year's game film, he made a lot of people miss and made some very, very big plays throughout the course of the game," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said. "Stopping him is a definite concern, whether we're in the correct schemes or not, just making the tackle and making things happen defensively is obviously a concern."
Missouri will use two sophomore tailbacks, Marcus Woods and Tony Temple. The biggest threat at wide receiver is Sean Coffey, and Roberts notes that the starting receivers are all 6-foot-2 or bigger.
Another concern is trying to defend the Tigers' new offensive schemes. "The unknown is a concern for us defensively," Roberts said.
The Indians, 3-8 last season, return four starters on offense, seven on defense and two on special teams.
Pinkel said the Tigers respect Arkansas State, but his biggest concern is getting Missouri ready to play regardless of the opponent. After last season's win against Arkansas State, Missouri, ranked in the top 25 at the time, lost to Troy and stumbled through the season.
Maybe that's why ticket sales for the 11 a.m. game have been disappointing.
"You can't fault them for that after the season we had. Some people may be a little skeptical," Missouri senior cornerback Calvin Washington said.
Like Smith, Washington was a part of Pinkel's first recruiting class and he has high hopes for the season.
"Honestly, I believe it's going to have a storybook ending," Washington said.
* Before kickoff, a moment of silence will honor Aaron O'Neal, the Missouri player who died after a conditioning workout in July.
* The Tigers have never played at Arrowhead Stadium and the last time they played in Kansas City was 1945.