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WVU

WVU notebook: Woods fits in as No. 3 receiver

| Sunday, Sept. 30, 2012, 7:52 p.m.
Tribune-Review
West Virginia running back Andrew Buie dives into the end zone over Baylor defensive tackle Nick Johnson (76) and Josh Wilson (21) on a 1-yard touchdown run in the first quarter at Milan Puskar Stadium on September 29, 2012. (Barry Reeger | Tribune-Review)

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — West Virginia senior receiver J.D. Woods was running out of time.

His college football career was winding to a close, yet his role in the offense remained undefined.

It took longer than he expected, but Woods has found his niche as the Mountaineers' No. 3 receiver behind Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey. He played his best game in a 70-63 win over Baylor with a career-high 13 receptions for 114 yards and a touchdown.

“He's a senior. The light came on,” coach Dana Holgorsen said. “He didn't play much in camp because he wasn't (academically) eligible. Going into his senior year, he got eligible, and the light came on.”

Woods, who played in 26 career games entering this season, started the final two games in 2011. Still, his status for 2012 was uncertain until he became comfortable with himself and the offense.

Against Baylor, Woods caught a 7-yard touchdown pass on a slant from Geno Smith that tied the score, 14-14, in the second quarter.

“It was a reality check for me,” Woods said. “It's my senior season. I only have a few games left. I need to make every game, every play, count.”

Woods made his biggest play late in the fourth quarter against Baylor when he snared a Smith pass one-handed and turned it into a 13-yard gain. It helped WVU run out the clock and preserve its first Big 12 win.

“I'm proud of J.D.,” Holgorsen said. “He hasn't done a lot around here. He stayed the course. He's doing everything right now. He's practicing hard. He's doing a good job in the classroom. He's doing a good job in the weight room. And he's making plays in the field.”

Rounding into form

In his first game back following knee surgery, sophomore running back Dustin Garrison had two carries for 1 yard against Maryland a week ago. Holgorsen promised Garrison's role would increase against Baylor, and he was featured more in the offense.

Garrison carried three times for 28 yards, including a 17-yard burst late in the game. He added two catches for 7 yards.

“Garrison's coming along,” Holgorsen said. “The more he plays, the more confidence he's going to get.”

Leading rusher Shawne Alston was sidelined with a thigh bruise against Baylor that resulted in him receiving no carries against Maryland. Holgorsen expects the running game to receive a boost when Alston returns, although he noted that Andrew Buie carried 25 times for 82 yards and rushed for two touchdowns against Baylor.

“Buie ran hard, and he didn't turn the ball over,” Holgorsen said. “Obviously, when Shawne gets healthy, it's going to help us.”

Notable

Smith's passing yards (656) and touchdown passes (eight) are Big 12 records. ... With 20 touchdown passes through four games, Smith ranks No. 5 on WVU's season list. ... Buie set career marks in rushing yards and carries. ... Smith's 52-yard touchdown pass to Tavon Austin was Smith's longest scoring pass of the season as well as Austin's longest catch of the year. ... Stedman Bailey has recorded two or more touchdown receptions three times this season.

John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at jharris@tribweb.com.

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