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WVU football notebook: Alston resurfaces at right time

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2:30 p.m. Saturday, Milan Puskar Stadium Morgantown, W.Va.

TV/radio: WPGH-53/WVAQ-FM (101.9), WBGG-AM (970), Mountaineer Sports Network

Records: West Virginia 6-5, 3-5 Big 12; Kansas 1-10, 0-8

Notable: This will be the final home game for QB Geno Smith and WR Tavon Austin. Smith is WVU's career passing leader and has thrown more touchdown passes than any quarterback in school history. Austin is WVU's career leader in receptions and receiving yards. ... WVU became bowl eligible with its win at Iowa State. ... Kansas needs a win to avoid its worst season since 1988.

'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Saturday, Nov. 24, 2012, 10:34 p.m.

AMES, Iowa — West Virginia senior running back Shawne Alston reached 100 yards rushing for the second time this season.

Alston's career-high 130-yard, one-touchdown performance in the Mountaineers' 31-24 win Friday at Iowa State was his best outing since the opener. He had 100 yards rushing against Marshall.

Ask Alston about the rest of his season, and he sums it up in one word:

“Miserable,” Alston said.

And frustrating.

Alston has been sidelined for much of the season with a bruised thigh.

“The frustrating thing was we lost a couple of close ones” Alston said. “It was very frustrating when you have a tight game and wind up on the losing end. Last year we had a couple tight games and we were able to overcome adversity.”

Alston's absence from the lineup contributed to some of those close losses. The lack of a consistent running game placed more emphasis on the passing game and put more pressure on the defense to perform.

Alston received 19 carries against Iowa State, averaging 6.8 yards per carry.

“His week leading up to this game was a lot better than it had been,” WVU coach Dana Holgorsen said. “Obviously, I didn't want to put that out in the media because it would have given them something a little bit more to prepare for.

“With him back there, we're better.”

Austin gets his carries

Alston's emergence didn't reduce Tavon Austin's new-found role in the Mountaineers' running game.

A week ago, Austin carried 21 times for a school-record 344 yards against Oklahoma. Austin rushed 14 times for 74 yards against Iowa State.

“We're going to come up with creative ways to get him the ball,” Holgorsen said. “They probably had two or three people that were assigned to him.

“They did a pretty good job of containing him and filling with the safeties, but we still got him the ball 20 times.”

Seniors step up

Senior quarterback Geno Smith credited the leadership of his classmates with keeping the team mentally strong during the five-game losing streak.

“I think we handled it well all year,” said Smith, WVU's career leader in passing yards and passing touchdowns. “We had a couple circumstances where the ball didn't bounce our way, and we would make some bonehead mistakes or not make enough plays to win in the end.

“I think we had the right amount of leadership throughout this tough losing streak that we had to keep guys focused and keep things in perspective. That carried a long way.”

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

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