Corby Jones's most impressive scramble this season came in the
days before Missouri's opening game. While laid out in the
Tigers' training room, he was blindsided by coach Larry Smith.
"Hey, Jones!" Smith snarled. "You parked in my space!"
"I'm just getting treatment," Jones said.
"You may be getting treatment and you may be the starting
quarterback," Smith said, "but I'm the head coach and I just
asked a policeman to tow your car."
Jones, a junior, bounded to his feet and bolted out the door.
The prankish Smith laughed uproariously. "I've only seen Corby
run quicker once," he says, "and that was when he ran the option
for 80 yards last season against Kansas."
Last Saturday against Colorado the 6'1", 227-pound Jones
trafficked in more options than a commodities broker. He wheeled
for 74 yards on the ground and dealed for another 164 in the air
to lead the Tigers to a 41-31 victory, their first over the
Buffaloes since 1984. The win raised Mizzou's record to 6-3,
guaranteeing the Tigers their first winning season since
'83--which was also the last time they went to a bowl.
Jones, who ranks first in total offense in the Big 12, has been
known as the "option quarterback" since enrolling at Missouri
two years ago. His father, Curtis, was a noseguard at Missouri
in the late 1960s and an assistant coach there in the '70s. He
rejoined the Tigers in '93 as tight ends coach, tutored the
running backs from 1994 to '96 and is now the defensive line
coach. Corby was all-state at Hickman High in Columbia and
considered scholarship offers from Nebraska and Illinois, among
other schools, before picking the Tigers.
As a freshman Jones was assigned to the scout team, but his
redshirt was yanked after a 30-0 loss to Kansas State dropped
the Tigers to 2-3 that season. "We had three drop-back
quarterbacks," Smith recalls, "and none were getting the job
done. I decided it was time to go where our future was." The
future turned into the present for Jones, who saw action the
following week against Nebraska, the defending national
champion. "I was too young and too ignorant to be scared," says
Jones. "I was just excited." So excited that his first pass, a
bomb down the middle, was intercepted. He didn't throw another
one, and Nebraska won 57-0.
Despite starting all but one game during a 5-6 season in '97,
Jones amassed fewer passing yards (624) than his backup, Kent
Skornia (701). "The platooning didn't help my self-confidence
much," Jones says.
This season the Tigers are relying more on Jones's arm. He threw
for 220 yards in a 37-29 win over Texas on Oct. 18 and passed
for two touchdowns and ran for four in an Oct. 25
double-overtime 51-50 victory over Oklahoma State. With two
games left he has rushed for a team-high 701 yards, which means
he could become the first quarterback to lead Missouri in
rushing since 1964. "I used to run to set up the pass," says
Jones. "Now I pass to set up the run."
So much for limiting his options.
COLOR PHOTO: TIM DEFRISCO [Corby Jones in game]