Column: Garrison earns the RB job in win

Dustin Garrison was one of the last West Virginia players to walk off Mountaineer Field on Saturday.

As he did so, the Mountaineers' freshman speedster slapped hands with fans in the stands. At 5-foot-8 and 175 pounds, he couldn't reach each hand that popped over the edge of the stadium wall.

Garrison was too small to be recruited by many FBS teams despite rushing for 4,261 yards and 62 touchdowns in his college career.

Then, WVU and head coach Dana Holgorsen came calling. And, I'm sure after his performance against Bowling Green on Saturday, the Mountaineers' head coach is glad he did.

West Virginia came into Saturday's game against Bowling Green as one of the worst rushing teams in the country.

Through four games, the Mountaineers were averaging just 76.5 yards per game on the ground, which made them No. 115 in the nation.

With 93 yards rushing in the first quarter – yes quarter – against the Falcons, WVU surpassed its average yards per game.

And it was because of Garrison.

Garrison finished with 32 carries for 291 yards and two touchdowns in the Mountaineers' 55-10 victory over BGSU on Saturday.

With that performance, WVU may have just found its running back of the future.

"The game has definitely slowed a lot since Day One," Garrison said. "I'm seeing and hitting the holes a lot faster now."

Garrison had more than 100 yards with more than 10 minutes to go in the second quarter. And by halftime, Garrison's 233 rushing yards nearly matched the number of students remaining in the upper deck of Milan Puskar Stadium to start the third quarter. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound back from Pearland, Texas ran hard, stiff-arming and spinning past defenders on his way to a career day.

In addition to Garrison, junior bigger back Shawne Alston was a solid change of pace. Alston ended with 49 yards and two touchdowns in the win, and the oft-injured performer looked healthier than I had seen him in a long time.

Garrison did have one fumble late in the second quarter, but that was about the only negative thing I could say about his performance.

"If you look at 16 games on his high school film last year, it's like that. He's used to 200-yard games," Holgorsen said. "The more you give it to him and the more he plays, the better he gets. He's patient and his vision is a little better."

WVU has been waiting for a running back to step up, and Garrison did so for the last two games.

He had a team-high rushing total against LSU and did so again on Saturday against Bowling Green.

If Garrison hadn't won the position against the Tigers, he surely did against the Falcons.

With he and Alston back there for the Mountaineers and an offensive line that continues to progress, there's a running game in Morgantown again.

Does it mean that Holgorsen will automatically crown Garrison the back of the future? Probably not.

While Garrison had so much success against Bowling Green, he will have to continue to improve and perform in practice before he's considered "the guy."

Without a doubt, though, Garrison has proven over the last two games that he deserves to be the starter and does give the Mountaineers their best chance to win.

Garrison came into the season as likely the third-best option behind freshmen Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts. That has obviously changed.

All three have had their chances, and Buie and Roberts didn't shine like Garrison has. Get ready, because Garrison has a bright future … and he's going to shine in the gold and blue.

"It just took a little bit of patience, but it has worked out," Garrison said. "I got my chance, and I think I made the most of it."


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