Alston Emerging

Young, speedy running backs like Dustin Garrison and Andrew Buie typically figure to get most of the carries in Dana Holgorsen's offense at West Virginia. But on a sloppy track at Rutgers this past Saturday, Shawne Alston provided a bit of power when the Mountaineers needed it.

Alston was named to the Big East Conference's weekly honor roll after he ran 14 times for a career-high 110 yards and two touchdowns in West Virginia's 41-31 win over the Scarlet Knights.

The performance was perhaps made possible by a snow-covered field at High Point Solutions Stadium, but Holgorsen said he saw a breakout performance from the junior running back coming soon regardless.

"It's a long season, and especially at running back, you need more than one guy," Holgorsen explained Monday on the Big East coaches' teleconference. "Running back is probably the hardest position to play in the game, you know, because you have so much for them to do and they take such a beating with pass protection and running the ball and being involved in the pass game. You need more than one back. Throughout the course of a year, you're going to need four or five guys to step up.

"We're such a running back oriented team anyway with the amount of backs we play from a two-back standpoint and a three-back standpoint. We're happy that he has progressed. He's just been hurt. He's a guy that brings maturity to the room and has been getting better each week. That's why we named him a (game) captain. He went out there and was pretty motivated to play."


    WVU has played eight games this season, and three have included challenging weather situations.

    Its season-opener against Marshall was delayed (and ultimately shortened) due to repeated lightning strikes in the vicinity of Milan Puskar Stadium. A few weeks later, a game against Bowling Green was cold, windy and rainy -- enough so that only 46,603 were in the stands in Morgantown.

    And then there was Saturday's game, a rare snowy October day in New Jersey as conditions at Rutgers made for a sloppy, slow game where players had to change cleats at halftime in the hopes of obtaining just the slightest bit of footing.

    Holgorsen said in his opening remarks that he was pleased with his team's ability to "overcome the conditions."

    "We don't have much of a choice but to ignore it," the head coach said. "It's been the strangest year for me weather-wise. We've played eight games and half of them have been in weather you'd have a hard time practicing in.

    "But our guys have done a good job of ignoring it. We haven't made a big deal about it. We haven't talked about it. We haven't used that as an excuse. I don't care what kind of weather it is. We're going to go out and play ball."


    West Virginia faced a stern test from No. 1 LSU's defense in September. Louisville, statically, figures to present the biggest challenge the Mountaineers have seen since.

    The Cardinals are 12th in the country in total defense and 11th in scoring defense (16.25 points allowed per game). As head coach Charlie Strong tweeted on Monday morning, his team is one of only two in the nation to have not given up more than 25 points in a single game this season. The other? Alabama.

    That success starts at the top, according to Holgorsen, with Strong himself.

    "Coach Strong has been widely regarded as one of the best defensive coordinators in the country for the past, you know, two decaden," Holgorsen said. "He's been at a lot of good places. I've never faced him, but I've watched from afar when he was at Notre Dame and South Carolina and Florida, putting really good defenses out there for the past couple decades, so it's not surprising he's doing the same thing at Louisville.

    "You look at their players, their bodies look good to me. They look big and physical, and they've got speed as well. The scheme is good. It's sound. They're well-coached and they've got good players. So it's not surprising to see them hold people to what they've been holding people to."

    And as young as U of L (4-4, 2-1) is on both sides of the ball, Holgorsen only expects Strong's club to improve as the season continues.

    "You know, they're an attacking defense, but they play sound. It's hard to move the ball on them," Holgorsen said. "It always starts up front. They have D-linemen that are physical, and their linebackers are enormous and cover a lot of space. They've got some new bodies. You know, they still play four or five freshmen, which they do the same thing on offense. That's scary, due to the fact that the more you play freshmen, the better they're going to get."

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