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Tigers defeat Cornhuskers for first time since 1973
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- After falling apart in a loss to Kansas, Missouri had two weeks to think about it. And to come up with an inventive game plan that helped the Tigers end a 24-game losing streak against No. 10 Nebraska.
Brad Smith tied a school record with four touchdowns and Missouri scored twice on trick plays along with opening up the offense for the first time all season in a 41-24 victory over the error-prone Huskers on Saturday night.
"It's certainly my biggest win here," coach Gary Pinkel said. "What I'm going to suggest is it's pretty darned big."
Nebraska (5-1, 1-1 Big 12) committed five turnovers in losing to Missouri (5-1, 1-1) for the first time since 1978, and for the first time at Faurot Field since 1973. Among the school's first sellout crowd in four seasons were several members of the last team to beat the Huskers, including coach Warren Powers.
Fans tore down both goal posts after the game.
"Our fans have just been dying for something like that," athletic director Mike Alden said. "It's exciting for us to be able to deliver."
Missouri trailed 24-14 in the third quarter before outscoring Nebraska 27-0 in the fourth quarter. Nebraska entered the game with the nation's top-ranked defense and was coming off its first shutout in three seasons.
"The bottom line is we all shared in this one," Nebraska coach Frank Solich said. "The turnovers were ridiculous."
Missouri ended a 45-game losing streak against Top 10 teams dating to a 14-3 victory over No. 9 Mississippi State on Oct. 3, 1981. The Tigers, who scored on a throwback pass to Smith and a fake field goal, also ended a 20-game losing streak against Top 25 teams.
"We were going to be aggressive in everything we did," Pinkel said. "We did a lot of stuff, and we felt we had to do those things."
Smith rebounded from a poor outing in a 35-14 loss at Kansas two weeks ago that dropped Missouri from the Top 25. He was 13-for-27 for 180 yards and his first two interceptions of year, making up for those errors with 123 yards on 18 carries plus a 47-yard touchdown reception off a lateral to Darius Outlaw.
Since the Kansas loss, Pinkel has been telling Smith to relax.
"He's been telling us for two weeks 'Don't worry about your grade, don't worry about what anyone else says, just do what you do,"' Smith said. "Play ball and let it loose.
"That's the type of offense we are."
Nebraska had been allowing only 219 yards per game, but gave up 452 yards to Missouri. In a nine-minute span of the fourth quarter, Missouri scored more points than the Huskers had allowed in a game all year.
Solich said the fake field goal turned the game around.
"They certainly swung the momentum around in the fourth quarter," Solich said. "That was the play that did it."
A 39-yard run by Smith on the first play of the fourth quarter cut the gap to three at 24-21. The Tigers then took a 28-24 lead on a fake field goal when holder Sonny Riccio, the backup quarterback, hit Victor Sesay for a 14-yard touchdown pass with 11:21 left.
Smith ran 1 yard on a naked bootleg to make it 34-24 with 5:53 left and an interception and 34-yard return by Zach Ville set up a 9-yard Smith run with 5:11 to go.
Smith also scored on a 47-yard reception after the lateral pass to Outlaw, a former quarterback, in the second quarter.
Jammal Lord ran for one touchdown and passed for a second for Nebraska, which also got a big game from backup tailback David Horne.
"I didn't make enough plays when I needed to, and that hurt my team," Lord said. "Our team had chances, and we didn't take advantage of them."
Mark LeFlore turned a swing pass from Lord into a 55-yard touchdown play for the game's first score. Lord ran it in from 35 yards on the option as Nebraska, which trailed 14-10 at the half, made it 24-14 in the final minute of the third quarter.
Horne played most of the game after Josh Davis tried to field a punt at the 5 and fumbled, leading to Missouri's first touchdown. Horne had 119 yards on 26 carries and Lord added 111 yards on 19 carries.
Nebraska's last game was a 30-0 shutout over Troy State.