College Football Players With Most Receiving Yards In A Season The Conundrum that is Brad Smith

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The Conundrum that is Brad Smith

As we reach the midpoint of the Big 12 season, the title game picture is clear in the South, yet murky in the North. By Saturday most people agreed that Colorado and Nebraska were the classes of the Big 12 North. Sure Missouri is 2-1, but their wins came against conference bottom feeders Iowa State and Oklahoma State, and they now have to play Nebraska! Many believed that Nebraska’s incredible defense would shut down the Tiger offense and move them back into the top 25. But someone forgot to tell Brad Smith.

The sometimes remarkable, sometimes maligned senior quarterback decided to have the best game of his career on Saturday. Passing for 234 yards, plus a touchdown, and rushing for 246 and 3 touchdowns (setting the Mizzou record for total yards with 480), Smith single-handedly moved Missouri into contention for the Northern champ. The performance came after a week in which Smith’s backup, freshman Chase Daniels, was gaining support for the quarterback job. The highly touted Daniels stepped in for the injured Smith in Missouri’s game against Iowa State and threw for 185 yards on 16 of 23 passing to lead them to a 27-24 overtime victory. Yet only Chase Daniels interrupted Missouri’s momentum this week. After Smith went on four straight scoring drives to start the game, Daniels entered on the first drive of the second quarter and nothing materialized. The campaign proved to be a major momentum-setter for Nebraska. Although it was a pre-designed trick that was 1 of 2 drives for the game for Daniels, Smith’s performance said he stayed in the game.

Brad Smith’s years at Missouri have had their fair share of ups and downs, usually turning into results that didn’t quite live up to expectations. Smith replaced incumbent starter Kirk Farmer as a true freshman in 2002 and the Tigers posted a 5-7 record. With heightened expectations for 2003, Smith led the team to an 8–5 record and an Independence Bowl berth (loss to Arkansas), behind 1310 yards rushing, totaling 28 touchdowns on the season. Coming into 2004, Smith was getting a lot of Heisman hype, and he did nothing. He was one of the biggest disappointments of the 2004 college football season. While many attribute his drop off to mismanagement by coach Gary Pinkel, the decline in his numbers was severe. Although his passing yardage increased, his completion percentage dropped from 60.6 to 51.8 and his rushing yards dropped to 553.

Although it looks like Brad Smith may not be leaving Missouri, his senior season is now upon him. 2005 is the year that Brad Smith can finally live up to his enormous potential. Running roughshod over what was previously the nation’s top rush defense on Saturday, Smith solidified his job and put Missouri in the hunt in the Big 12 North. His performance made him only the 6th player in NCAA history to throw for 200 yards and pass for 200 yards in a single game (first since Indiana’s Antwan Randall in 2000). Additionally, he is currently the leading rusher in the Big 12 and the 10th leading rusher in the NCAA this season, tying his best total since 2004.

But serious obstacles still stand in the way of both Smith and Missouri. This week they visit Kansas in the annual Border Wars. Kansas has won the last 2 meetings and has been a big problem for Smith. In the past two games against them, Smith has rushed for a whopping -8 yards on 30 carries, and the Kansas defense he will face this season currently ranks first in the Big 12 against the run. If they manage to shake off the demons in Lawrence, they have road games with current North favorites Colorado and Kansas State, who they haven’t beaten since 1992.

I hesitate to put my money on Smith rushing for 291 yards and 5 touchdowns in a 2003 win against Texas Tech. He has been one of the most inconsistent players in college football over the years. The question is, did he turn a corner against Nebraska on Saturday or was it just another bright flash? You wonder if he will ever put it all together.

As for Missouri, I don’t think they have a team capable of winning the North. They are still not good outside of Brad Smith. They currently rank 10th in the conference in total defense, allowing 375 yards a game, their schedule plays poorly and lame-duck Gary Pinkel is still their coach. Missouri will go as far as Brad Smith will take them. If he plays even 80 percent the rest of the season like he did in the Nebraska game, he could pass Vince Young for best player in the Big 12 and lead Missouri to their first Big 12 championship game. But if he doesn’t, he could easily fade into obscurity after this season. Now is the time for Smith to either assert himself as a great quarterback or become a running version of Notre Dame quarterback Ron Paulus, a four-year starter who never lived up to his full potential.

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