First Notice

Saturday's game against Syracuse wasn't his first appearance in a West Virginia game, but it was the first time many people took notice of freshman running back Shawne Alston.

Prior to West Virginia's 34-13 win over the Orange, Alston had seen time on special teams, but not on plays from scrimmage. That changed against Syracuse, when Alston appeared in the latest of WVU's power running sets on offense. He had six carries for 19 yards against the Orange with a long carry of eight while running behind fullback Ryan Clarke. While Alston realizes he is fighting a long list of talented players at running back, he is willing to wait his turn.

"I think I got in and did a good job," admitted Alston. "It wasn't too much of a letdown when I got in. It was a good experience. That was my first carry. I was nervous at first but I think I did alright. I got in the game, took advantage of the opportunity and showed everyone a little bit of what I can do. I hope to get in the mix more, but I don't mind waiting my turn."

It is likely that Alston will be waiting some time before he gets fully thrown in the mix as he is behind talents like Noel Devine and Mark Rodgers at the position. Add in Clarke, who is getting the ball in another power running formation that features Ricky Kovatch in the backfield as a lead blocker, and his chances might seem to be limited. However, West Virginia's diverse offensive philosophy gives him a chance to show his talents.

"I think I'll have the opportunity to get in the game more because we run different packages," said Alston. "All of our running backs have a different style of running and we all bring something to the table. Ryan Clarke is more of a power back, Noel has a lot of speed and I have a little bit of both. It would be nice if they called my number more, but I learn from watching them in practice and in game situations."

After being used solely on special teams for the first four games of the season, Alston's number was finally called to run the ball. After throwing around the idea of putting Alston in the game for a few weeks, the coaching staff felt as though the road contest against the Orange was the perfect time to debut the young running back.

"I knew it would come sooner or later," admitted Alston. "Some games I was about to come but we just didn't quite break away so I didn't get the opportunity. [Against Syracuse] we were up by a lot and I knew Coach was going to give me my chance. He told me he would give me a chance if we got up so I got in there."

Alston had already gotten over any "first-time" jitters earlier in the year by making appearances on West Virginia's kick teams, so that likely helped a bit as he took his first carries from scrimmage. He ran hard inside on his chances against a Syracuse defense stacked to stop the run, and showed why he was a prized recruiting coming out of high school. He never imagined, however, that his first appearances would be on the kickoff return team.

"I never played special teams in high school," said Alston. "I played a little second string on kick return... but wherever you can help your team. I was just happy to play whether it was on special teams or if I had to move to defense."

Alston's showing gives West Virginia yet another weapon it can call on this year, and while he likely won't be the featured back during the remainder of his freshman year, he has shown that he has the ability to get the job done at the position.


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