MANHATTAN, Kan. — Jeremy Maclin doesn’t remember the last time the Missouri Tigers had a player return a kickoff for a touchdown.
That’s because he wasn’t born yet.
So when Maclin returned a first quarter kickoff 99 yards for a touchdown against Kansas State on Saturday, it ended a 25-year drought that would make even the most barren desert look like a water amusement park.
“I had heard how long it had been and I thought it was funny,” tailback Tony Temple said. “He’s just doing his job though.”
Not since Ricky Doby ran a kickoff back 85 yards on a reverse against Oklahoma State in 1982 had the Tigers taken a kickoff all the way for a touchdown. To put it in perspective, the Tigers have gone 287 games and 976 kickoffs without a return.
However, with a player of Maclin’s caliber, Missouri personnel felt it would be only a matter of time before the Kirkwood native took a kick from end zone to end zone.
“I’ve just known he was going to do it with him just being back there,” coach Gary Pinkel said. “He is the kind of guy that can take the ball in any manner and turn it into a big play.”
Maclin said he told teammate Castine Bridges that he knew exactly when he’d do it.
“I just told him to get a block out there and I was going to take it in,” Maclin said.
Backed up at his own one-yard line, Maclin ran into a wall of blockers and was actually hit by a Wildcat defender who couldn’t wrap him up for the tackle. The elusive Maclin spun out and no one inside Bill Snyder Memorial Stadium was going to catch him. The scamper in the first quarter was not the only dent he made in the school – and national – record books.
Maclin shattered a 14-year national record on the return. The run broke the NCAA record for most all-purpose yards by a freshman, which was 2,026 yards by Terrell Willis of Rutgers in 1993.
In addition to Missouri’s first kickoff return for a touchdown since E.T. was a hit at the theaters, Maclin’s 366 all-purpose yards set the MU single-game record. The previous mark was 333, set by running back Devin West in 1998 against Kansas.
Tiger teammates and coaches have exhausted all the adjectives on Maclin. Pinkel and quarterback Chase Daniel both used the word “unbelievable” several times. It’s become increasingly more difficult for coaches and teammates to sum up his list of feats in 2007.
But then again, a quarter century between a big play can sometimes leave someone grasping for descriptive words.
“He’s pretty good,” Pinkel said. “I don’t know what else to say about the guy.”
DAVIS AND RICKS SUSPENDED: Linebacker Connell Davis and cornerback Hardy Ricks were both suspended for one week and did not play Saturday against Kansas State. The two violated team rules, Pinkel said, and that they would return for next week’s game against Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium.