By JOHN KOVACH
VINDICATOR SPORTS STAFF
Saturday will be a homecoming of sorts for Brad Smith when the former Chaney High quarterback returns to Ohio with his University of Missouri football team to play Bowling Green State at 5 p.m. at Perry Stadium.
Smith, a redshirt freshman starter at quarterback who already has led Missouri to wins in his first two collegiate games, is hoping to treat visiting family and friends with another impressive running and passing show. The unbeaten Tigers will shoot for their third win against the Falcons (1-0).
"My family and people from my church and a lot of my friends from high school will be coming up to see the game," said Smith, who has completed 29-of-53 passes for 328 yards and one touchdown without an interception, and has rushed for 252 yards in 27 attempts and two TDs.
Missouri is 2-0 for only the fourth time since 1983.
Smith (6-3, 200) credits his Youngstown background and the support he has received at Missouri for his fast start.
He especially is grateful for "being at Chaney and playing against the [Youngstown area] players, and Coach [Ron] Berdis and what he taught me, my family being there and being the way they are," said Smith, the son of Sherri and Phillip Smith.
And he is appreciative of "my church pastor, Bishop [Norman] Wagner from Mount Calvary, all the things that he teaches and all the time he puts into people there."
Smith said he has been close to the church and Wagner, and has served as an assistant to both.
At Missouri, Smith is thankful for being in a wholesome environment, especially "the people I am around, the players and coaches and how they prepare with the film and the [game]."
He called the campus and students in general "very classy and optimistic" and said the mood after the team's first two wins is very positive.
In the season opener Aug. 31, he ran for 138 yards and one TD, and passed for 152 on 15-for-26, as Missouri beat defending Big Ten champion Illinois, 33-20.
Last Saturday, Smith passed for 176 yards on 14-for-27 and one TD, and rushed for 105 yards, including a 39-yard touchdown scoring dash, to lead the Tigers past Ball State, 41-6.
Smith's favorite passing targets have been wide receivers Justin Gage (12 catches for 121 yards and one TD) and Thomson Omboga (10 receptions for 158 yards).
Redshirt year helps
Smith said being a redshirt last year prepared him for a strong start this season. He helped out with the scout teams as Missouri struggled to a 4-7 record in coach Gary Pinkel's first season.
"It helped a great deal [learning] what we do with the team, and it helped me to adapt to college," said Smith.
"They [college players] are bigger guys and great players. They have more weight. They run faster and they hit a little harder," said Smith. "Their technique [is outstanding] and they are really good at what they do."
He also has matured and grown more confident.
"I just learned that patience and being calm out there [on the field] goes a long ways," he pointed out.
Smith said Missouri runs "an attacking offense."
"We run a couple of running plays but whatever works," he added. "I am getting the chance to run the ball. I always have been a running quarterback.
"The offensive line has done a great job these two games, and we are working harder to get better," he said.
Smith said he chose Missouri because, "It was one of the best opportunities because of the division (NCAA Div. I] and the league [Big 12 Conference]."
It also helps that Smith, who has not yet declared a major, is a good student. He had a 3.1 grade-point average at Chaney, and posted a 2.9 GPA in his first year at Missouri. His brother, Josh, is a junior basketball player at Lake Erie College. He also has a sister, Philecia.
Brad was a two-time all-state selection at Chaney and two-time All-City offensive player of the year. He passed for over 2,700 yards in his career and 34 touchdowns, while rushing for more than 1,200 yards and 19 TDs.
Smith also was an All-City pick in basketball, and was a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.