SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) -- Missouri quarterback Brad Smith didn't
squirm as he fielded questions before the Independence Bowl, but
acknowledged he'd rather avoid the spotlight before the game.
He's not shy, though, about the attention he'll get from the
South Carolina Gamecocks, whose defense has labeled him as priority
"I like that," Smith said. "I enjoy that challenge."
South Carolina defensive end Orus Lambert had no trouble stating
the game plan for Friday's game against Missouri (6-5).
"Pretty much all we have to do is stop Brad Smith," Lambert
said, speaking like a man who has studied the Tigers' stats.
Missouri put up 4,653 yards in total offense this season, and
Smith accounted for 3,173, rushing for 1,151 yards and passing for
2,022. That made Smith the first player in NCAA Division I-A
history to pass for 2,000 and run for 1,000 in two seasons. Smith
completed 216 of 362 passes with 12 TDs and eight INTs this season.
And he really doesn't care how he makes a play, just that it's a
"Big plays, any way you make them, are exciting," Smith said.
"It's more making the right decision, the one that works."
Smith already owns 59 school, Big 12 and NCAA single-game,
season and career records.
"He's an excellent athlete with his ability to run, just like
the Texas quarterback, Vince Young," South Carolina coach Steve
Spurrier said. "You hope to try to make him throw the ball and not
beat you running. We're going to try to contain him and try to
cover their guys and try to get pressure on him."
An Independence Bowl victory would be big for either team, both
of which seemed long shots to make it to a bowl.
South Carolina (7-4) lost its first three Southeastern
Conference games before a strong finish secured the team its first
bowl bid since the Outback Bowl after the 2001 season.
"It didn't start out all that pretty," Spurrier said.
After a rough couple of years with the Washington Redskins,
Spurrier gave up golf for a chance to turn the Gamecocks around. He
described his team as a work in progress, but also admitted to
having the most fun this year he'd had in a long time.
Unlike South Carolina, Missouri struggled down the stretch. The
Tigers were at the top of the Big 12 North standings before losing
three of their last four games, including to rival Kansas. Missouri
needed a win over lowly Baylor just to get a bowl bid.
The last bowl appearance for the Tigers was in the 2003
Independence Bowl, where they lost to Arkansas 27-14. Missouri is
9-13 all-time in bowl games, its last win coming in 1998.
After leading the Tigers to Shreveport as a sophomore, Smith and
Missouri struggled last year and fell short of a postseason bid
with a 5-6 record.
"A lot of seniors have been there and want to go out with a
win," Smith said.