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Smith takes charge in lopsided Missouri win
COLUMBIA, Mo -- After four games of this stuff, maybe no one should be surprised with Missouri's Brad Smith.
But once again, the freshman quarterback who entered Saturday's game against Troy State leading the Big 12 in total offense, left the crowd in awe as he and the Tigers easily dispatched the Trojans 44-7.
Having already opened the game by going 3-of-3 for 60 yards on the Tigers' first drive, which he capped with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Thomson Omboga, Smith faced a fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. After bouncing into his offensive line on the called quarterback sneak, Smith spun to kept his feet under him, stumbled around the line's left side and past the Trojans' defense.
The move, which Smith ended by running 28 yards for a touchdown, moved Missouri ahead 21-0 and knocked Troy State out of the game.
"It just comes to the point where you expect him to do something new," said wide receiver Justin Gage. "He just keeps performing and performing and making something happen. We're starting to expect that out of him."
Smith finished his day going 18-of-34 for 213 yards, adding 137 yards rushing, before Kirk Farmer replaced him midway through the fourth quarter.
"The offensive line did a great job," Smith said of his sneak for a score. "They just blew them off the ball, and I just kind of leaned. I kept leaning, and I saw Gage out there and no one else. So I stumbled a bit and kept on running."
Zack Abron rushed for 98 yards and also scored twice for Missouri, and R. J. Jones tied a school record with three interceptions. The Tigers held the Trojans to their lowest point and offensive yardage totals of the season.
In his first four starts, Smith has thrown for 875 yards and run for 394, pushing his total offense average to 317 yards a game. He has turned the ball over just once, an interception two weeks ago in Missouri's 51-28 loss at Bowling Green.
"Great players do that. Great players make big time plays," said Missouri coach Gary Pinkel. "I'm just glad he's on my team."
After giving up 577 yards to Bowling Green in its last game, Missouri held Troy State to a season-low 300. Antwaun Bynum had a sack, moving his total for the year to six with eight games remaining. Justin Smith holds the school's single-season record with 11, set in 2000.
Troy State's Hansell Bearden completed 16 of 26 passes for 225 yards and threw two interceptions. He threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Jason Samples to start the third. Bearden was replaced by Matt Ray in the fourth quarter, who threw an interception to James Kinney that was returned for a touchdown.
"I'll take a pick for a touchdown any day," Kinney said, not willing to concede that Jones might have had a better day with his three interceptions. "We were talking about it on the sideline. I said, 'You haven't gone to the end zone yet."'
With five takeaways on Saturday, Missouri upped its season total to 14; the Tigers had 15 in all of 2001.
DeWhitt Betterson led Troy State with 79 yards rushing.
Mike Matheny added three field goals for Missouri.
The Trojans are 0-4 all-time against teams from the Big 12 after losing earlier this season to Nebraska and Iowa State.
"I don't know where they stand in their conference, but they're as good as anyone we've faced," said Troy State coach Larry Blakeney.
Troy State defensive back Damien Coleman was taken off the field on a stretcher late in the second quarter, and was hospitalized with an injured neck. Blakeney said Coleman, a sophomore from Swainsboro, Ga., said had "a little weakness" in his right hand. Results of a CT scan came back negative, while results from an MRI were expected later Saturday.