WVU notebook: Alston is back in stride for West Virginia
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia running back Shawne Alston remembers waiting his turn last season. It was a long wait.
“I didn't play early,” said Alston, a senior who rushed for a career-high 123 yards in the Mountaineers' 69-34 win over Marshall Saturday at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Alston plays all the time now.
Coincidentally, sophomore Dustin Garrison received his opportunity last season, in part, because of Alston's injury issues. Now Alston and Andrew Buie are sharing carries as Garrison recovers from January knee surgery.
“It started in the (Orange Bowl) when Dustin went down. Shawne stepped up and took advantage of his opportunity,” coach Dana Holgorsen said.
Alston rushed for 77 yards and two touchdowns in the Orange Bowl. He added two more scoring runs against Marshall. More impressive were his pile-driving runs through defenders, maintaining his balance and gaining additional yards.
“It's nice to have a guy like Shawne who's hard to tackle, to have a guy like that with a bunch of offensive linemen that are able to establish the line of scrimmage,” Holgorsen said. “We all know that he was hurt last year and we didn't have him in the spring, we didn't have him for about five games, and he got better as the year went on. Then in the offseason he got in shape. He thinks he's the baddest dude on the field. He thinks he's the boss in the locker room, which he probably is.''
Running backs coach Robert Gillespie said Alston's inside power reminds him of former Mountaineer Owen Schmitt.
“He's 240 pounds,” Gillespie said of Alston. “Owen was a patient back. He was explosive. He could break tackles and fall forward. I'm not going to say that guy, but he's that kind of guy.”
Assist to Garvin
Linebacker Isaiah Bruce scored his first college touchdown on a 43-yard fumble return, but he knows it wouldn't have been possible without fellow linebacker Terence Garvin's sack, and forced fumble.
“I saw (Garvin) go for the ball as he was trying to get a strip, and he was trying to get a sack,” Bruce said. “I saw the ball on the ground, and I was trying to make a play. He said, ‘Man, you should've at least gave me the ball back.' ”
Near perfect not enough
WVU would have scored 70 points for the second consecutive game had Tyler Bitancurt not missed the extra point following Geno Smith's 32-yard touchdown pass to Stedman Bailey in the first quarter. Bitancurt was 9 of 10 on PATs; the attempts equaled a stadium record.
Holgorsen said the Mountaineers' special teams need work. Corey Smith had a punt blocked in the third quarter, leading to a Marshall touchdown.
Smith was named one of two Football Bowl Subdivision Walter Camp National Players of the Week. Smith completed 32 of 36 passes for 323 yards and four touchdowns while also rushing for 65 yards and another score.
The WVU coaching staff named Alston offensive champion, Bruce defensive champion and Ryan Nehlen special teams champion for their performances.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.