The West Virginia Mountaineers might have lost a fifth consecutive game Saturday against Oklahoma, but they learned something that could be extremely valuable going forward: how to integrate an explosive runner in Dana Holgorsen's pass-heavy offense.
Tavon Austin played running back in high school, but the wide receiver had only gotten 37 carries in the first three years of his West Virginia career while making his name as a target for Geno Smith. Saturday, Austin lined up in the backfield with ridiculously successful results, running 21 times for a school-record 344 yards, coming only six short of an NCAA record for all-purpose yards. For Holgorsen, the performance in the 50-49 loss was a revelation:
"We haven’t been able to run the ball, so we had to do something," Holgorsen said. "It probably should have been done four years ago. In hindsight, we should have done it prior to this."
Austin, 5'9 and blessed with tremendous speed, seems as well suited for a role in the backfield as one catching passes. Although he's considered one of the top receivers in the 2013 draft class, his performance Saturday more than proves his ability to play as a running back as well. Austin said that the position switch was the result of conversations he had with the coaching staff about his abilities as a runner:
"I had said a couple things to coach Holgorsen and the coaching staff about putting me back there a couple times," said Austin, who rushed for 2,660 yards and scored 34 touchdowns as a senior at Dunbar High in Baltimore. "I didn’t think I was going to get it 21 times. I always told them that’s what I did in high school, and I still have it a little bit."