Woods jukes jitters

After a slow start, Missouri tailback is ready to step up play.
Thursday, September 30, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 2:27 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Marcus Woods said he has gotten rid of the redshirt-freshman jitters that caused him to struggle early this season.

The tailback had an inauspicious start on his first college carry in the Tigers’ season opener Sept. 4 against Arkansas State. With Missouri leading 21-10 in the second quarter, Woods fumbled the ball on a rush up the middle, giving the Indians possession in Tiger territory and a chance to stop Missouri from putting the game out of reach.

Woods’ struggles continued in Missouri’s 24-14 loss to Troy and was part of the Tigers’ overall inability to run the ball effectively.

Missouri ran for just 114 yards and Woods had six rushes for 12 yards and a fumble that the Tigers recovered.

“It was a team factor really,” Woods said. “I think if we had all focused up, even I could have had better runs.”

A 48-0 win against Ball State allowed the Tigers to regain confidence and gave Woods an opportunity to excel in his role as backup to starting tailback Damien Nash.

Woods had four rushes for 32 yards and almost broke free for a touchdown on a 30-yard run at the end of the first quarter. He looked like he was going to score easily after breaking through the line, but was caught from behind by a diving Cardinals safety.

“That play was a big play in the game, but it could’ve been bigger if I had scored,” Woods said. “I’m going to work on finishing my runs, finishing the play.”

Missouri expected Woods to be an impact player this season, sharing snaps with Nash and possibly returning kicks. With the return duties going to Thomson Omboga and Shirdonya Mitchell,

Woods has served as the Tigers’ No. 2 tailback, providing an alternative running style to Nash and quarterback Brad Smith.

At 5 feet 8 inches tall, 185 pounds, Woods is unable to run over opponents like Nash or outmuscle them like Smith, instead relying on quick bursts past the defensive line to gain most of his yards.

Woods said he must take a simpler approach and play to his strengths to have success in the Big 12 Conference season.

“Out there on the field, I was just thinking too much,” Woods said. “I had a lot to think about. If I just play my own game I think that will be the cure for my problems.”

Although coach Gary Pinkel talked about giving almost equal time to Nash and Woods in the preseason, Nash’s performance has made him the Tigers’ primary rushing option. He leads the team with 46 carries, 265 yards and six touchdowns. Those numbers place Nash first in the Big 12 in touchdowns and points scored (36).

Woods will still get plenty of carries, though, and said that after a shaky start, he is ready to move into his first conference season.

“I’m excited for it,” Woods said. “I can’t wait to get out there, put the non conference behind me and make a name for myself in the conference.”

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