Missouri looking down on Big 12 North now

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Associated Press

WACO, Texas -- Missouri is in the rarified air of first place in the Big 12 North.

Brad Smith's three touchdown passes, Joe Tantarelli's three field goals, and a stout defense enabled Missouri to defeat Baylor 30-10 Saturday night.

The Tigers (4-1, 2-0) grabbed first place in the North after Texas Tech whipped Nebraska 70-10 in Lubbock.

Missouri, which snapped a six-game road losing streak, returns to Texas next Saturday to play the Longhorns.

It's the first time Missouri has ever been alone in first place in Big 12 North play.

"This is the situation we're supposed to be in," Smith said. "It's time to step up to the next level and that's what this team has been waiting for. It's good to win on the road."

Smith surprised Baylor (2-3, 0-2) with two touchdown passes to redshirt freshman tight end Martin Rucker and tossed an 8-yarder to Sean Coffey early in the fourth quarter as the Tigers turned a close game into a blowout.

Missouri coach Gary Pinkel couldn't have been more delighted about the road win.

"That's all preparation by this team," he said. "If you prepare well and focus you play well on the road. It had not been our best place.

"We're 2-0 in the conference but we have a long way to go. There were certain things we did well and certain things we did not do well. We played great defense."

The 20-point favorite Tigers struggled in the first half of the late-kickoff, nationally televised game.

The Bears beat back threat after threat to trail only 13-3 at halftime.

Safety Jason Simpson's 46-yard interception return gave Missouri the impetus before halftime.

He sped all the way to the Baylor 9-yard line after picking off Dane King.

Three plays later, Smith found Rucker with a 7-yard scoring pass.

Rucker also caught a 17-yard touchdown pass in the third period.

Baylor's defense allowed field goals of 22 and 20 yards by Tantarelli in the first half.

The second field goal came after Smith had completed a 24-yard pass on 4th and 21 to Thomson Omboga.

Tantarelli's third field goal was a 31-yarder in the fourth period.

Missouri showed why it has the second best defense in the Big 12.

It took a roughing the kicker penalty to set Baylor up for its only points in the first half, a 30-yard field goal by Kenny Webb, who had been knocked down on a previous attempt.

Baylor scored a consolation touchdown on a 21-yard Shawn Bell to Trent Shelton pass with 6:42 to play.

"We couldn't protect, run it, throw it or catch it," said Baylor coach Guy Morriss. "We couldn't get anybody to step up and make a play on offense. Our defense played pretty well. We put them in some bad situations. Overall it was a frustrating game and the late start had nothing to do with it."

Shelton said, "the loss was real disappointing having a display like that on national TV. Our offense just didn't show up."

Missouri is now 8-2 all-time against the Bears.

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