Good: This ought to be obvious, because he was wonderful when his team asked him to be just that. Tavon Austin highlighted a record-setting night at Mountaineer Field that’s just as impressive and mesmerizing and worth rambling on about whether you look at it through gold and blue lenses or through crimson and cream ones.
Austin is the 10th player to crack 200 yards rushing against OU. It’s an impressive list. Sproles (235), Ricky Williams (223), Wisconsin’s Alan Thompson (220), Barry Sanders (215), Missouri’s Brad Smith (213), Marcus Allen (208), Mike Rozier (205), Arkansas’ Roland Sales (205) and Texas’ Hodges Mitchell (204).
Four Heisman winners on that list. Nice club you’re leading, Tavon.
Bad: This quote from Dana Holgorsen.
“Obviously, we should have done that prior to this.”
About that …
It was well within the offense’s capability. You’ll remember when people were pumped about Tavon’s subtle position change — and hasn’t that worked out exceptionally? It was at that time we first discovered teammates rubbing their hands together excitedly as they let intel slip about Tavon at running back.
“It’s about using him every way we possibly can,” receiver Stedman Bailey said at the time. “We can even line him up in the backfield now.”
Hey, makes sense. That’s your weapon on offense that hardly anyone in American can match or counter, let alone stop. Give him the ball and buy new light bulbs for the scoreboard.
But we never really saw it happen … until the Oklahoma State game … though since he knows the position and he basically ran variations of one play against Oklahoma, it wasn’t a matter of compromising practice and preparation. I mean, that’s what WVU is saying here.
“We don’t need evidence to know Tavon Austin makes plays,” running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. “Practice didn’t allow us to know that.”
And all Tavon did was spectacularly fill his role and lead the nation in receptions per game. For a time, it made no sense to move Tavon and limit his opportunities at receiver because 1) he was terrific there and 2) the running game wasn’t broken.
Then came the cracks. Alston was sidelined, Buie flashed and then wilted — and really hasn’t been himself since the Texas game — and Garrison is still a fraction of his whole self. The running game struggled, defenses adjusted and put a cap atop sagging coverage in the secondary and WVU’s passing game hit familiar bumps game after game.
In four losses, WVU rushed for 374 yards and Geno Smith was one of the many who confessed his game, which is to say the passing game, was being contained in part because of the way the running game was being ignored by opposing defenses.
Tavon carried a season-high five times against Oklahoma State and was in the backfield for a few of those and you could sense the idea was in Holgorsen’s head. Asked about it last week, he juked a straight answer and we paid no attention because, seriously, why move a Biletnikoff guy, a NFL draft pick, to a new position after nine games? Idiots.
Then it happened and it popped so brilliantly, with Austin slashing the Sooners and Smith throwing over the top of a secondary with an ease not witnessed in many weeks, that even Holgorsen had to admit he should have looked into this before.
Which begs the question: What if he had?