12:00 PM ET, September 3, 2005
12:00 PM ET, September 3, 2005
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- So far, Missouri's no-huddle, spread offense is a huge success. The Tigers just missed the school total offense record in their opener.
Brad Smith thrived in the new attack, throwing four touchdown passes and just missing 100 yards rushing in a 44-17 victory over Arkansas State on Saturday.
"It was fun to watch," Arkansas State quarterback Nick Noce said. "But I wish it wasn't against us."
Brad Ekwerekwu caught his first two career touchdown passes for the Tigers, who rolled up 657 yards in offense while playing in Kansas City for the first time in 60 years. Smith played only about 2 1-2 quarters, or otherwise the school record of 665 yards against Kansas in 1949 would surely have fallen.
"Brad's been waiting for this day," coach Gary Pinkel said. "That kid is on a mission. What we can in this offense, we can just do a lot of things for him."
It was the home opener for Arkansas State, despite a 6½-hour drive from Jonesboro, Ark., to the Chiefs' Arrowhead Stadium, which was about half-full with an announced attendance of 32,906.
"That's cool," Smith said. "I don't care if it's two people or 1,000."
Smith, a dual threat his first two seasons, was primarily a dropback passer last year and Missouri suffered for it with a 5-6 record after going to the Independence Bowl a year earlier. He operated out of a no-back offense most of the time Saturday, mixing it up with handoffs off shifts, shovel passes, short and medium-range passes and keepers, going 29-for-37 for 317 yards and gaining 95 yards on 12 carries.
He now has 3,083 career rushing yards, passing Brock Olivo for second place on the school's career list, and trails leader Zack Abron by 115 yards. He had 412 yards of total offense, the completion total matched his career best and the 300-plus day passing was his first since his redshirt freshman year in 2002.
"We're not trying to make no statements, we're just trying to play football," Smith said. "I think we're done with that kind of stuff. We just come to play and do what we're supposed to do."
Missouri, which beat Arkansas State 52-20 in Columbia last year, did not punt until Smith left the game midway through the third quarter. By then, it was 37-0.
Two lost fumbles by wide receiver Sean Coffey were the only minuses in the first half for the Tigers, who scored on their other five possessions and had 417 yards total offense for a 30-0 lead. Smith threw a pair of short TD passes to William Franklin and Ekwerekwu, Marcus Woods scored on a 23-yard run and Tony Temple had a 6-yarder.
Coffey dislocated his left shoulder on the second fumble, and Pinkel said he'd be sidelined perhaps a couple of weeks. Franklin finished with eight catches for 116 yards.
Arkansas State, held to 165 yards in a half, was plagued by dropped passes by wide receivers intimidated by some crunching hits in the secondary.
"I was taken off-guard by our start," Arkansas State coach Steve Roberts said. "I thought our team was prepared mentally and emotionally. As much as they spread the field, there's a lot of running room. Even if you play perfectly."
Antonio Warren had 121 yards on 18 carries and a 6-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter for Arkansas State, which opened away from home for the 10th straight season. Noce added a 10-yard scoring pass to Patrick Higgins that cut the gap to 37-17 before the Missouri starters re-entered and quickly scored on a 10-yard pass from Smith to Chase Coffman.
"I just got a little nervous," Pinkel said. "I wanted to make sure we preserved this, and we never really came out firing on offense in the second half."
Before the game there was a moment of silence for Aaron O'Neal, the Missouri linebacker who died of viral meningitis in July after a conditioning workout.