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Tigers Ride Smith to Comeback Victory

From the Associated Press

As Brad Smith goes, so goes Missouri.

South Carolina knew that and the game plan of keeping Smith in check worked well -- for a half, anyway.

Then, the Missouri quarterback broke loose, as he has done so often in his career, rushing for three touchdowns -- including a one yarder in the final minutes -- and passing for another to rally the Tigers for a 38-31 victory over the Gamecocks in the Independence Bowl on Friday.

“It wasn’t anything magical,” Smith said. “We just played within our system.”

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Smith, who rushed for 1,151 yards and passed for 2,022 this season, accounted for 431 yards of Missouri’s 504 yards as the Tigers staged their biggest comeback victory of the year.

Missouri (7-5) trailed, 21-0, after the first quarter as Steve Spurrier’s Gamecocks dominated the first half. South Carolina (7-5) outgained Missouri 312 yards to 174 in the first half.)

“We had him hemmed in in the first half,” Spurrier said, “but we weren’t good enough to do it the whole game.”

Smith completed 21 of 37 passes for 282 yards, with one touchdown and an interception. He ran for 150 yards and three touchdowns in 21 carries.

“I was trying to make too much,” Smith said. “At the end of the second quarter I was able to make something happen and get my timing down.”

The Gamecocks needed less than three minutes to go 80 yards for their first score. Blake Mitchell’s 23-yard pass to Sidney Rice put Carolina up, 7-0. Rice finished with 12 receptions for 191 yards.

Tony Temple fumbled on Missouri’s first play and South Carolina’s Ricardo Hurley scooped up the ball. Four plays later Mike Davis, who ran for 125 yards in 18 carries, scored on a five-yard run for a 14-0 lead.

The Gamecocks’ third scoring drive covered 69 yards in 1:59. This time Mitchell, who completed 20 of 38 passes for 266 yards, passed to Carson Askins on a 20-yard scoring play to make it 21-0. Mitchell threw two touchdown passes and had three passes intercepted.

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“Twenty-one-nothing is no safe lead for us,” Spurrier said.

Marcus King gave Missouri its first points, grabbing Mitchell’s pass near the goal line and returning it 99 yards to make it 21-7 in the second quarter.

After Davis’ two-yard touchdown run gave the Gamecocks a 28-7 lead, Missouri went 77 yards and Smith passed five yards for a touchdown to Chase Coffman to make it 28-14 at halftime. Coffman finished with eight catches for 99 yards.

On their first drive of the third quarter, the Tigers faked a field goal at the Carolina 14. Martin Rucker ran to the one-yard line, but the Tigers couldn’t push it in and Adam Crossett’s 22-yard field-goal attempt sailed wide right.

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Smith pulled Missouri to 28-21 with a 31-yard run with 2:41 left in the third quarter.

Another apparent Missouri touchdown was nullified by a 15-yard tripping penalty. Smith finally got the touchdown on a four-yard run that tied the score, 28-28, early in the fourth quarter.

Crossett kicked a 50-yard field goal to put the Tigers up 31-28, but Josh Brown countered with a 30 yarder that tied it, 31-31.

Then, with 2:13 left, Smith sealed the Missouri win with a one-yard run.

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