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20 For 20: #8 - Thanks to Brad Smith, Tigers beat Huskers for first time since 1978

In a span of 15 minutes, Brad Smith took over in the fourth quarter to help Missouri beat Nebraska for the first time since 1978, giving Gary Pinkel a statement win

Jeff Beiermann / The World-Herald

In an effort to look back fondly at the successes of Tiger football, the Rock M Nation football staff compiled and ranked the greatest games of the past 20 years. There’s no science or math involved here: we simply listed what we thought were the 20 best games of the past 20 years and counted the votes. We’ll start with the games getting the fewest votes and work our way up to #1.

2003: Missouri 41 - No. 10 Nebraska 24

It hadn’t happened since 1978. For the first time in 24 years, the Missouri Tigers had finally beaten the Nebraska Cornhuskers. However, this game was much more than a streak-stopping victory.

It marked the first statement win of the Gary Pinkel era, where Mizzou desperately needed it the most. After starting the 2003 season with a 4-0 record, the Tigers suffered a loss at kansas and fell out of the Top 25 rankings.

Their following game presented a significant opportunity— a home contest against the No. 10 team in the country. That sure sounded like a daunting task, but it was certainly the time for a program changing win, and Missouri had no other choice but to capitalize.

Nebraska took a 24-14 lead heading into the fourth quarter, and it just felt like the inevitable loss to the Huskers was coming.

Oh, but Brad Smith had other plans.

With the very first play in the fourth quarter, Smith ran 39 yards for a touchdown to cut Nebraska’s lead to 24-21. All of a sudden, that gave Missouri the hope they needed, and the Tigers were right back in it.

In the following Nebraska offensive possession, Missouri forced a fumble and the momentum was clearly on the Tigers’ side.

With 11:55 remaining in the fourth quarter, Missouri took the lead, and there was no better way to do it than a fake field goal touchdown pass. Sonny Riccio to Victor Sesay for 15 yards, 28-24 Missouri.

The Tigers never looked back. Missouri outscored Nebraska 27-0 in the fourth quarter. Brad Smith had four touchdowns — at the time, that tied a school quarterback record.

With a 41-24 victory over the No. 10 ranked team in the country, Mizzou improved to 5-1 (1-1 Big 12) and beat Nebraska at Faurot Field for the first time since 1973. It also marked Missouri’s first win over a Top 10 team since 1981 against Mississippi State.

Here are the highlights from this game (on TBS Saturday Night Football!)

Smith said it there in the postgame interview, “It’s the beginning of something big.”

How big? The win helped lead Missouri to their first bowl game since 1998, and the first of 10 bowl appearances under Gary Pinkel’s 15 seasons.

This really marked the start of Pinkel’s successful run as the all-time winningest head coach in Missouri football history.