He wasn’t heavily recruited. He wasn’t supposed to make it at this level. He isn’t a big star.
Marcus James is used to taking his place in the background, so Saturday was nothing new.
With 94 yards on four punt returns, James, a senior, broke the school record for combined kickoff and punt return yards, passing Mike Fink’s mark of 1,692. James has 1,765.
James didn’t mind that teammate Zack Abron broke the school’s rushing record, overshadowing James’ record-breaking day. He didn’t care much about the record. After the game, James chose to wax about the Tigers’ season so far instead of basking in his record.
“Right now, I’m just kind of excited for the win,” James said.
James’ teammates often cite his leadership skills and commitment to the team among his positive attributes. Sometimes, though, that team first attitude keeps James from enjoying his personal successes, senior receiver Darius Outlaw said.
“I think that meant more to me than it did to him,” Outlaw said.
Outlaw said James has been an invaluable part of the team in his four years, especially this season.
“He made some plays that got us going,” Outlaw said. “Without Marcus this year, I think there would have been a lot of tough games.”
James considers himself the Tigers “spark plug,” because the offense relies on him to give it good field position on punt returns. On Saturday, with the offense struggling, James had to transform himself into a different auto part.
“Our offense was struggling a little big early,” James said. “If I could get any kind of field position, I knew what we could do. I just tried to be the jumper cables for our offense.”
BREAKING NEW GROUND: The Tigers had something like this in mind when they nicknamed Memorial Stadium, “The Zou” earlier this season. Missouri finished 6-0 at Memorial Stadium for the first time, marking the first time it has gone undefeated at home since 1974.
The Tigers have gone undefeated and untied 12 times since the stadium opened in 1926.
Missouri (8-4) also will finish with at least eight wins for the first time since 1998 when the Tigers needed a 34-31 win against West Virginia in the Insight.com Bowl to finish 8-4. This is the first time since 1980 the Tigers have won eight regular-season games.
As if that weren’t enough, Missouri broke a four-game losing streak against Iowa State, dating to a 35-19 win in Ames, Iowa, in 1998.
BOWL-LIEVE IT: There is little doubt Missouri is headed to a bowl, but which bowl it will be is up in the air. The most likely fit for the Tigers is the Independence Bowl, which is 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 31 in Shreveport, La.
Glen Krupica, the executive director of the Independence Bowl, said the Tigers are high on the bowl’s radar. On a scale of one to 10, he said, Missouri’s chances of ending up in the Independence Bowl are an eight.
The Tigers could wind up in San Antonio, though, playing in the Alamo Bowl at 8 p.m. on Dec. 29. The Alamo Bowl is looking at five Big 12 Conference teams, Texas, Oklahoma State, Nebraska, Kansas State and Missouri, according to bowl chairman Jack Rogers.
To a man, the Tigers say they don’t know or care where they will go, but they’re happy to be heading to a bowl game.
“I don’t have no idea,” sophomore tailback Damien Nash said. “Just going to a bowl feels good.”
Among eight bowl-eligible Big 12 teams, only Kansas has its bowl reservation booked. The Jayhawks accepted a bid Saturday to play North Carolina State in the Tangerine Bowl on Dec. 22 in Orlando.
SCARY MOMENT: Memorial Stadium fell nearly silent when Iowa State quarterback Waye Terry had to be carried away on a stretcher near the end of the third quarter.
Terry couldn’t get up after Jason Simpson hit him head-on when Terry tried to scoop up a mishandled snap from center.
Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said the situation looked bleak initially, and he said Terry was taken to University Hospital for testing. McCarney said Terry was much improved after the game.
“He had tingling and numbness in all of his extremities,” McCarney said. “Fortunately, almost all the feeling is back now. They’re going to do a CAT scan and make sure, but so far, so good.”
SIGNING OFF: The next time fans visit Memorial Stadium, something might seem a little different. Saturday’s game marked the last for Jim Hall, Memorial Stadium’s public address announcer.
Hall has had the position for so long, even he can’t remember the year he started, only that Al Onofrio, who coached Missouri from 1971-77, was the coach at the time.