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Eight is enough

West Virginia ties record for bowl futility

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Posted: Monday December 28, 1998 09:20 AM

  Missouri stopped Amos Zereoue and continued West Virginia's bowl woes AP

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) - The best thing West Virginia can say about its NCAA Division I record eight-game bowl losing streak is 'Wait 'til next year.'

The Mountaineers rallied from 21 points down in the final 17 minutes of Saturday night's Insight.com Bowl but still lost to No. 23 Missouri 34-31.

However, West Virginia should have a shot at ending the streak next season, since quarterback Marc Bulger will return.

Bulger completed 34 of a 50 passes for a school record 419 yards and four touchdowns in the loss.

'They had no chance to stop our passing game, and they know that,' West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said. 'But it was not quite enough.'

The Mountaineers' future would be even brighter if tailback Amos Zereoue decides to come back for his senior season, too. Zereoue, who has been considering an early leap to the NFL, had a tough night in Tucson, gaining just 32 yards in 22 carries.

Missouri, meanwhile, said goodbye to two of its best players ever, quarterback Corby Jones and tailback Devin West. Jones rushed for three touchdowns and West finished with 125 yards in 31 carries.

But neither was the MVP.

That honor went to Julian Jones, a sophomore cornerback who usually doesn't even start. The younger Jones won the award with a multipurpose performance that included a blocked punt, intercepted pass, 39-yard kick return and 10 unassisted tackles.

He only started because senior Wade Perkins, who led the Big 12 in interceptions, was suspended for the game for violating team rules.

'I was sad for Wade because I knew it would have been his last game,' Julian Jones said. 'I tried to come in and do the things that he would have done for our team, because he is a big-time player.'

Missouri (8-4) won a bowl game for the first time since 1981. But leave it to the younger Jones to describe the Tigers' season that might have been.

'We could have been 11-1,' he said. 'We've talked about that the last three weeks. There was a lot of hunger to win.'

The Tigers' only one-sided loss was to Ohio State, then the nation's No. 1 team, 35-14, in the third game of the season. Missouri's three Big 12 losses were 20-13 at Nebraska, 17-14 at Texas A&M and 31-25 at home against Kansas State.

The Tigers' victory carried added emotion because of the death in July of Corby Jones' father, Curtis, a Missouri assistant.

'Coach Jones is always watching over us and we knew he would be watching tonight,' West said. 'I want to thank him for everything he has done for us.'

Against West Virginia (8-4), Missouri shot out to a 31-10 lead behind Jones' scrambling and two big plays by the special teams. Early in the game, Jeff Marriott blocked Jay Taylor's 48-yard field goal try and Carlos Posey returned it 70 yards for a touchdown. Moments later, Julian Jones blocked Taylor's punt out of the end zone for a safety.

'It's amazing that we have a field goal blocked like that, and then a punt,' Nehlen said.

The eight bowl loss in a row tied South Carolina for the longest skid ever in NCAA Division I. South Carolina ended its streak with a victory over West Virginia in the 1995 Carquest Bowl.

 
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