Missouri, Texas A&M match freshman QBs

Saturday, November 16, 2002

COLLEGE STATION, Texas -- Texas A&M and Missouri defenses will have a common goal today, stopping freshman quarterbacks who can freeze defensive backs with a run or throw over them for a touchdown.

Brad Smith has been leading the Tigers (4-6, 1-5) all season with his running and passing. Reggie McNeal is just getting started for the Aggies (6-4, 3-3).

Smith, a redshirt freshman, needs 95 rushing yards to become the second player in NCAA Division I-A history to pass for 2,000 yards and run for 1,000 in the same year.

McNeal, a true freshman, will make his first college start. He earned it last week when he came off the bench and threw four touchdown passes and led the Aggies to one of their biggest victories in years, 30-26 over then No. 1-ranked Oklahoma.

A&M coach R.C. Slocum thinks his rising star will be prepared.

"I don't think he'll get carried away with this," Slocum said. "I'll try to have Reggie ready, knowing that nothing is easy about this game. You go out and play and you have one of those days where you have the hot hand and everything falls into place. But you have to be prepared."

McNeal got his most extensive playing time in his breakthrough performance against the Sooners, passing for 191 yards and running for another 89.

"Another part of it will be playing through those times when things don't go your way," Slocum said. "Stepping up as a starter will be another experience for him but we'll try to deal with that as we go along."

Smith was held out last year, working on the Tigers' scout team, and was more than ready for his debut in August when he accounted for 290 yards total offense in leading Missouri to a 33-20 victory over Illinois.

Smith has been impressing Big 12 coaches all season.

"I've seen him do some things on tape that you don't see a lot of quarterbacks do," Kansas coach Mark Mangino said. "He's running down the field and straight-arms a 290-pound defensive tackle that came up to put a hit on him.

"He's a remarkable player."

Slocum knows the problems Smith can cause a defense.

"He's a guy similar to Reggie," Slocum said. "He's got an excellent arm and he's got excellent running skills. He's a gifted athlete. I see him throw some great passes and he has a good awareness."

McNeal is the Aggies' third starting quarterback this season.

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