The bruising back brought the pain - per the pregame movie clip played on WVU's video board – and absolutely buffaloed the Herd in West Virginia's 69-34 win over Marshall Saturday. Alston racked up a career-best 123 yards on 16 carries, a 7.7-yard average, with much of that coming after initial contact via a gritty, pad-popping display.
"He got himself in good shape during the offseason," WVU head coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He's healthy, he feels good, he's a leader and he thinks he's the baddest dude on the field. He thinks he's the boss in the locker room, which he probably is. Just a guy who is tremendous leader at this point."
Most of Alston's damage came in a 34-point first half in which West Virginia amassed 413 yards, its most in any half since a 424-yard performance against Connecticut in 2007. The senior tallied 66 yards and a touchdown to push WVU's lead to 13-0, then scored in the opening drive of the second half to effectively put the game out of reach at 41-10.
There was a demolition derby-like beauty to the process, the grasping of jersey, the flail of defenders and, at one point, an unsportsmanlike personal foul for a way-too-late facemask after Alston was already eight yards into the end zone. That was promptly repaid a series later, Alston yanking the facemask of a Marshall defender, letting the Herd know that its nonsense play – which included multiple personal fouls early - would not be tolerated.
"I think I'm the baddest dude on the field," Alston said. "It's an attitude you have to have."
It was an encore of the Orange Bowl performance in which Geno Smith and Tavon Austin stole the show, while Alston did the dirty work in scoring the first and last touchdowns of the opening half. With a score just as lopsided, ending any idea that Marshall can compete with West Virginia, it semed Alston and the Mountaineers took pleasure in burying MU one final time to go 12-0 in series history.
Even Quincy Wilson was impressed. Watching Alston from the sideline, the former WVU great and current assistant director of football operations likely had flashbacks to his days of bowling over Pitt defenders and hurdling Miami defensive backs. It was, arguably, the most physical game played by a back since Wilson chewed up Pitt for four scores and 208 of the bluest-collar yards ever in West Virginia's 52-31 win over the No. 16 Panthers in 2003.
"In the bowl game when Dustin (Garrison) went down, I put Shawne in and he took advantage of his opportunity," Holgorsen said. We know he was hurt last year and we didn't have him in the spring, didn't have him for about five games. He got better as the year went on. .. It's hard not to name him a captain, but we have other guys who have played more."
Captain or not, it appears West Virginia has found a power run game that the Air Raid badly needs. For as much a finesse offense as this is viewed, it needs some between-the-tackles ability as well. As quarterbacks coach Jake Spavital noted, "There are occasions that you have to run people over. We can do that."
Thanks to the baddest man on the field.