West Virginia football notebook: Austin runs wild
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Trying to shake up his players, West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen uncovered a hidden gem in his team's sluggish running game.
Senior receiver Tavon Austin, a star running back in high school, ran 21 times for a school-record 344 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 50-49 loss to Oklahoma on Saturday night.
“We haven't been able to run the ball, so we had to do something,” Holgorsen said. “It probably should have been done four years ago. In hindsight, we should have done it prior to this.”
Austin is only the second 300-yard rusher in WVU history. Kay-Jay Harris ran for 337 yards against East Carolina on Sept. 4, 2004.
In addition, the 572 all-purpose yards Austin accumulated are the most in the FBS this season. USC receiver Marqise Lee had 469 all-purpose yards against Arizona.
Austin fell six yards short of equaling the FBS single-game record for all-purpose yards. Utah State's Emmett White had 578 against New Mexico State on Nov. 4, 2000.
“I had said a couple things to coach Holgorsen and the coaching staff about putting me back there a couple times,” said Austin, who rushed for 2,660 yards and scored 34 touchdowns as a senior at Dunbar High in Baltimore. “I didn't think I was going to get it 21 times. I always told them that's what I did in high school, and I still have it a little bit.”
With two rushing touchdowns against Oklahoma, Austin became the first WVU player to score a touchdown four different ways in a season (reception, rush and kick and punt return).
Special teams breakdown
WVU failed on a pair of two-point conversions in the fourth quarter, which would have made the difference in a one-point loss — including normally dependable receiver Stedman Bailey dropping a pass in the end zone.
Kicker Tyler Bitancurt also missed an extra point in the third quarter.
On the bright side, WVU's special teams snapped a two-game streak of allowing a touchdown.
WVU quarterback Geno Smith threw four touchdowns against Oklahoma and has 35 TD passes this season, a school record. It is the fifth time this season Smith has thrown four or more touchdowns in a game. ... Smith (320 passing yards) is the first quarterback to pass for 300 yards against Oklahoma this season. ... WVU's 458 rushing yards Saturday were its most since a 517-yard effort against Connecticut on Nov. 24, 2007. ... The Mountaineers had 778 total yards, second best in school history. WVU gained 807 yards against Baylor earlier this season. ... Austin's 2,313 all-purpose yards this season rank second in school history. Austin set the single-season mark last season (2,574). ... Bailey has caught three or more touchdowns in a game four times this season. Bailey holds career marks for touchdown receptions in a season (20) and career (36). ... Bailey has three 200-yard receiving games this season. He and Austin are tied with a school-record 12 100-yard receiving games.
John Harris is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.