Breakout Play

The smile was as wide as it could possible get. It threatened to split his face after he raced 58 yards with a Jarrett Brown pass for a score, and it helped remind everyone that despite highlight videos and fall camp performance, Tavon Austin is still just a freshman having fun.

As Austin burst past two defenders and romped to the end zone for his first college score, the raw emotion of the moment burst through. He smiled. He beamed. And when his teammates, led by Jock Sanders, arrived to celebrate with him, he howled with delight and lit up the who end zone. It was a great display of what the game means to players at its core level, and a reminder of the fact that the game should be fun.

Of course, Austin is no stranger to long scoring plays. It's simply that he was used to getting there in a different manner. The Maryland native was a running back in high school, and while he had plenty of long scoring runs, he said he never scored on a pass play such as the one that helped the Mountaineers put some distance between themselves and East Carolina.

"It seemed like it took forever for the ball to get to me," Austin said as he reviewed the big play. "But it seemed like the ball was getting smaller and smaller, too. It's been an adjustment to play in the slot, but I've been getting used to it."

Given Austin's impressive performances in fall camp, that might be a big understatement. However, West Virginia's coaches have brought him along slowly, using him as a kickoff return specialist and occasional substitute on offense before unleashing him on the downfield route against the Pirates.

"I actually was out there on the first play, but we got a penalty, so I don't know if that counts," Austin said with a laugh as he was asked how it felt to get his first start." (The official scorebook does credit him with the start, despite the fact that the play never came off due to an illegal procedure call.) "I came right out, and it seemed like every time I got back in we got a penalty and I came right back out again."

Despite that less than memorable beginning to the game, Austin kept working, and soon his chance arrived.

" My coaches told me they have confidence in me if I got the opportunity they thought I would score," the soft-spoken Austin related. "They trust me, and I trust them."

On the play, Austin made an adjustment to the ball that was little noticed.

"I was outside the hash, and Jarrett threw the ball inside," said Austin, who appeared to be level with two defenders before accelerating, changing direction and snaring the ball. It was a blazingly fast demonstration of the open field skills the freshman possesses, and likely a harbinger of even more highlight plays to come.

"That was a big deal at the time," Austin said of the third quarter score.

Following his on-field celebration, Austin was met by wide receivers coach Lonnie Galloway on the sidelines.

"Coach Galloway came to me and told me this is why they needed me here. He's like a second father to me. He and coach Beatty teach me everything, and they have shown that they trusted me."

Given his performance against the Pirates, there's no doubt that Austin's role, and that level of trust, will continue to grow -- with accompanying smiles to match.

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