Blaine Gabbert's 3 TDs lead Mizzou as defense takes advantage of error-prone K-State
COLUMBIA, Mo. -- Blaine Gabbert got a pep talk from his coach, who reminded him of his starring role in a victory that knocked Oklahoma out of the BCS lead a few weeks ago.
Then he broke out of his slump.
Gabbert accounted for three touchdowns in a strong bounce-back effort and Missouri (No. 17 BCS, No. 20 AP) made just as many big plays on defense in a 38-28 victory over error-prone Kansas State (No. 24 BCS) in its home finale Saturday.
"I told him on the biggest stage of college football, the biggest stage you can have, GameDay and the whole thing, you executed at the highest level, and you are good," coach Gary Pinkel said. "Never doubt how good you are."
The Tigers (8-2, 4-2 Big 12) capitalized on three fumble recoveries, two of them huge swing plays, and scored 17 straight points to put away the Wildcats (6-3, 3-4). Gabbert led the way with 297 yards passing and rushing, hitting receivers on the numbers and showing off his speed.
"It meant a lot having the coaching staff all behind me because losing two tough games like that, your confidence is a little shaken," Gabbert said. "It was great to get back out here, have a good day and get a win."
Missouri finished 6-0 at home, beat Kansas State for the fifth straight time and won its home finale for the sixth straight time, recovering from consecutive losses to Nebraska and Texas Tech that derailed a 7-0 start.
Kansas State had four turnovers, one of them wasting an opportunity to tie it in the final minute of the half when quarterback Carson Coffman fumbled the snap at the Missouri 1.
"It all happened so fast I can't remember, but looking back on it I think I just tried to get out of there too quick," Coffman said. "We ran the option to the left and it was there and I just tried to pull out too quick."
Jacquies Smith's fumble recovery preserved Missouri's 21-14 lead, and the defensive end later scored on a 53-yard fumble return in the third quarter after Aldon Smith leveled Coffman with a sack.
"To get a score and help our team just kind of blow the game open a little bit more, there's no wrong in that," Smith said. "When I was rushing the passer all I heard was boom, like it was two trucks crashing into each other.
"I just saw the gift lying on the ground and I had to pick the gift up and take it to the house."
Smith now has three career touchdowns, after scoring last year on an interception return and a touchdown reception.
Carl Gettis had a forced fumble and recovery on the same play, foiling a fumblerooskie late in the third at the Kansas State 45 to set up a field goal that made it 31-14.
T.J. Moe caught two touchdown passes from Gabbert, who was 17 of 25 for 208 yards with an interception while running for a season-best 89 yards on 14 carries. The junior completed only 42 percent of his passes with one touchdown the previous two games while frequently overthrowing receivers, and had appeared skittish in the pocket.
Gabbert opened with seven straight completions, including a 25-yard scoring pass to Moe.
"He's what they call a self-starter," wide receiver Wes Kemp said. "It doesn't take much to get him going. Being our leader, that's a good thing."
Coffman, a younger brother of former Missouri star tight end Chase Coffman, started for Kansas State. But the Wildcats had a lot more success with backup Collin Klein, who had 141 yards rushing on 18 carries.
Klein's running set up two short touchdown runs by Daniel Thomas in the first half.
"Each of them made mistakes, but I don't think it had anything to do with rhythm because they both did some good things," coach Bill Snyder said. "I'll have to watch game tapes, but if we have to switch them out we will."
Missouri led 38-14 before Kansas State scored a pair of late touchdowns on Klein's 35-yard pass to Adrian Hilburn and Coffman's 26-yard throw to Aubrey Quarles.
Gabbert had a big first half, going 11 of 13 for 98 yards and a touchdown and rushing for 70 yards on seven carries, including a 32-yard score.
Kemp had a big peelback block on Gabbert's scoring scramble, leveling Terrance Sweeney. Kemp was among three wide receivers who got carries in the first half, and Jerrell Jackson's 9-yard run made it 14-12 with 4:12 to go in the half.
"It's a great feeling," Kemp said. "Then when you see some cleats going up in the air it's pretty cool, too," Kemp said.
Thomas, who had 66 yards on 12 carries, scored two touchdowns for the second straight game.
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