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Mizzou's Jones, West ready for finale

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Posted: Thursday December 24, 1998 04:41 PM

  Something to prove: Both Corby Jones (above) and Devin West think injuries have limited their play Tim Umphrey/Allsport

TUCSON, Arizona (AP) -- The Bowl is the end of an era for Missouri stars Corby Jones and Devin West, and they want another ovation before their exit.

"This is going to cap it off, and I'm excited," West said.

Jones has been the starting quarterback, and the most dangerous player on the field, most of his four years at Missouri. After patiently waiting his turn, West set the school's single-season rushing record this year with 1,578 yards and 17 touchdowns.

Roommates and best friends off the field, they get one more chance to collaborate on the field -- unless they're reunited in the NFL -- on Saturday when the 23rd-ranked Tigers (7-4) play West Virginia (8-3). No matter how the bowl game turns out, neither has any regrets.

"A lot of good things have happened," West said. "I've been blessed."

Bios of West and Jones are on facing pages in this year's bowl media guide, but this was supposed to be the year Jones contended for the Heisman Trophy. Missouri began a low-key campaign last year at the Holiday Bowl with the media guide prominently featuring a photograph with Jones in a Heisman-like pose.

A sprained left big toe in the fourth week during a victory over Northwestern State (Louisiana) held back Jones much of the season. He had 703 yards rushing, a big drop from the 1,072 he had last season, and passed for nine touchdowns after throwing 12 his junior year.

He also persevered through the death of his father, Curtis Jones, of a heart attack in July. Curtis Jones had been a Missouri assistant coach for 10 years.

"More than ever, I've had to depend on my faith to get me through," Jones said.

It didn't hurt to have West, a second team All-America running back. West burst into prominence with a school-record 319 yards against Kansas in the second game of the season. He had 252 against Iowa State and had seven 100-yard games overall, ranking fifth in the nation with 143.5 yards per game.

West, who had shared the tailback position the previous two seasons, wound up with 283 carries, one shy of his total from the two seasons combined.

"We determined that West was the man and I told him last spring to put on a little weight, work hard and be in the best condition you've ever been," coach Larry Smith said. "I felt he could have a great year if he stayed healthy, and that's what he's done."

Jones was content to be the decoy most of the year, drawing the defense on the option, then pitching to West for big yards outside.

"Some people didn't care that I was hurt or didn't realize I was hurt," Jones said. "They just kept taking me on the option and I pitched to Devin and he was one-on-one, and that's easy money."

West held up until the regular-season finale against Kansas State, when he was limited to 63 yards on 12 carries by bone chips in his right ankle that had bothered him since his senior year in high school. Three bone chips were removed the following week.

"Now it's 100 percent and I'm ready to roll," West said.

The same goes for Jones, who is still upset over the 35-24 loss to Colorado State in last year's Holiday Bowl, Missouri's first postseason game in 13 seasons.

"Everybody remembers how that felt, and nobody wants to feel that way again," Jones said.

Related information
West Virginia's Zereoue has knack for overcoming odds
Missouri not interested with extracurricular activities
CNN/SI's Team Pages: Missouri
Final '98 Big Ten Statistics & Standings
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