Columbia, Mo. - The Nebraska football team rallied from a 21-3 first-quarter deficit to reach halftime tied at 24, but Missouri quarterback Brad Smith was a difference-maker in the game by amassing 480 yards of total offense in a 41-24 Tiger victory at Faurot Field.
With approximately 6,000 red-clad Husker fans among the 60,641 at Faurot Field and a Fox Sports Net national television offense looking on, Nebraska orchestrated a fierce first-half rally by using big plays on offense, defense and special teams to close the opening half tied with the Tigers. Nebraska quarterback Zac Taylor threw a pair of touchdown passes, while Daniel Bullocks blocked and recovered a punt to set up a Cody Glenn one-yard touchdown run. Barry Turner added a sack and forced a fumble by Smith that was recovered by Jay Moore to set up the tying score by Nate Swift for the Huskers in the second quarter.
But in the end, Smith proved himself as one of the top offensive players in Big 12 history by rushing for 246 yards and three touchdowns, while throwing for 234 yards and another score to help the Tigers move one game ahead of the Huskers in the Big 12 North Division standings at 3-1 in the league and 5-2 overall. Nebraska slipped to 5-2 on the season, including a 2-2 mark in conference play.
Although the game ended in a 17-point victory margin for the Tigers, Nebraska threatened to close the door on Missouri midway through the third quarter. The Huskers appeared on the verge of taking their first lead of the game when Taylor found Terrence Nunn on a crossing route on fourth-down-and-two from the MU 33. Nunn slipped through a tackle and raced down the middle of the Tiger defense inside the Tiger 10, before being being stripped from behind by Jason Simpson, who knocked the ball loose. Missouri's David Overstreet, who later added an interception, recovered the ball at the MU 3, and momentum swung drastically from there.
Smith, who had rushed for nearly 150 yards and thrown for nearly 150 more yards in the first quarter alone, finally got Missouri rolling against after being silenced for more than 20 minutes. Smith's 45-yard touchdown run, his third of the day, capped a 97-yard scoring drive to give the Tigers momentum and a 31-24 lead with 2:38 left in the third quarter.
Nebraska was never able to mount another rally, as Smith controlled the clock and guided Missouri on two more scoring drives, including a 31-yard field goal by Adam Crossett and a 14-yard scoring run by Tony Temple, to seal the victory. It was only Missouri's second win over the Huskers in the last 27 meetings in the series.
Missouri, which scored on its first four possessions of the game, set the tone for the first half shootout early, as Smith found Tommy Smith for a 15-yard touchdown pass just 2:09 into the game. The Tigers' first score was set up by a 50-yard pass play from Smith to Brad Ekwerekwu on MU's second play of the game.
After Missouri's quick strike, the Huskers went three-and-out on their first offensive possession, and Smith marched the Tigers down the field again. After throwing for 71 yards on MU's opening drive, Smith used his legs on the second scoring drive, which was capped by his four-yard touchdown run. Smith set up the touchdown with a 53-yard run and covered 59 yards on the ground during the 81-yard drive that put Missouri up 14-0 with 8:48 left in the opening quarter.
Taylor and the Husker offense displayed their poise on Nebraska's second possession, calmly marching 58 yards in 10 plays to set up freshman place-kicker Jordan Congdon's 12th field goal of the season. Congdon's 32-yarder temporarily slowed Missouri's momentum to cut the MU lead to 14-3 with 4:29 left in the first quarter.
But Smith extended the Tigers' lead just seconds later, as he took the first snap of Missouri's third possession of the game for a 79-yard touchdown to take a 21-3 lead with 4:13 to go in the opening quarter.
With their backs against the wall, the Huskers attacked quickly on the next drive, cruising 73 yards on just four plays, capped by Taylor's 34-yard touchdown strike to walk-on wide receiver Todd Peterson with 2:44 left in the first quarter. It was Peterson's second career catch and second career touchdown, including the first catch of his career in last week's win over Baylor.
The Tigers added a 29-yard field goal by Crossett early in the second quarter to push their lead back to two touchdowns at 24-10 with 14:47 left in the half, before the Blackshirts shut down Smith and Missouri the rest of the half.
The two defenses forced punts on each of the offense's next two possessions, but the Husker special teams made the most of Missouri's second punt attempt of the day, as senior strong safety Daniel Bullocks blocked Crosset's punt and recovered it himself at the Tiger 1. Freshman running back Cody Glenn scored on a one-yard touchdown plunge one play later to cut Missouri's lead to 24-17 with 4:49 left in the half.
The defenses continued to establish themselves by forcing punts on the next two drives, before the Blackshirts came up with another big play. Nebraska defensive end Barry Turner sacked Smith for a nine-yard loss and forced a fumble that was scooped up by defensive end Jay Moore and returned 17 yards to the MU 8. Taylor connected with wide receiver Nate Swift two plays later on an eight-yard touchdown pass to knot the score at 24 with 2:07 left in the half.
Taylor finished a rough day by completing 22-of-43 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns, but he threw a pair of interceptions in the second half and was sacked four times by an opportunistic Tiger defense. Swift enjoyed a career receiving day for the Huskers, hauling in nine catches for 135 yards and a touchdown.
As a team, Nebraska managed 279 yards of total offense, including minus two yards rushing. The Huskers only attempted 19 rushes, including the four sacks of Taylor, as Nebraska was forced to a pass-oriented attack in the first half after falling behind by 18 points in the opening quarter. Cory Ross led the Husker rushing game with 10 carries for 39 yards.
It was just the second game in school history that Nebraska finished with a negative rushing total, trailing only minus 17 yards rushing against Oklahoma on Nov. 24, 1951.
Missouri rolled up 523 yards of total offense, including 480 by Smith, whose 246 rushing yards were the second most by an opposing player in Nebraska history, trailing only 247 yards by Oklahoma's Billy Sims in Norman on Nov. 24, 1979. Smith's 480 total offense yards were also the second-most by an opposing player in Nebraska history, trailing only Louisiana Tech's Tim Rattay, who finished with 568 total yards, including 590 passing and minus 22 rushing on Aug. 29, 1998.
Nebraska returns home to battle the Oklahoma Sooners on Saturday, Oct. 29, at Memorial Stadium. Kickoff is set for 11 a.m. with national television coverage provided by ABC.