I enjoyed Friday’s game from start to finish because of the little things. After spending the week witnessing the coronation of Tavon Austin as World’s Greatest X-Factor and participating in the festivities by chronicling the digestive disorder of one Paul Rhoads, I had to laugh when Austin didn’t even start against Iowa State. Not at running back, not at receiver.
After that, we all saw Austin and Shawne Alston tactically toy with the Cyclones and they way they played defense. Austin had 174 yards rushing/receiving and Alsotn had 130 yards rushing and the whole thing looked very clever.
Then I realized that WVU started three running backs. Not one was named Alston.
So WVU gave Oklahoma the Tavon Austin look and then gave Iowa State the Shawne Alston look. What does Kansas get? How about a healthy starting lineup that features Austin, Alston, Stedman Bailey and Geno Smith together for the first time since the second game of the season?
Whatever the outcome, the pairing of Austin and Alston is bedeviling.
“It was definitely fun to see the defense kind of confused,” Austin said. “They didn’t know where we were lined up at. Sometimes Shawne would come in and they’d overset their defense on his side instead of playing a regular defense. We messed up their heads a little bit.”
Take the third play from scrimmage as an example.
I think you recognize this play by now. I can’t, for a moment, imagine Iowa State expected this. Tavon motions out of the backfield wide to the right and the game is on. He stays put for a screen, but attracts the defense. The wide receiver runs his deep route. The inside receiver runs his stick route. The Cyclones have it covered, so, hey, hand it to the 235-pound fella on a draw.
That’s a wonderful situation for the offense there. The down-and-distance is ideal. The matchups in the box are advantageous. It works perfectly and a switch is flipped in the coaching box. They weren’t sure what they’d get out of Alston and they weren’t sure what Iowa State would permit. The Cyclones were so concerned about Austin and Bailey that WVU figured Austin could get going.
Later in the game …
Simple motion to Bailey on a fake end around, but when Bailey gets moving, he takes the right outside linebacker with him and a safety coming downhill. Now it’s 5-on-6 in the box, but with no safety help and WVU’s line does a good job to give Alston a chance to plant, turn and power to do things Alston can do.
By the end of the game, Alston was giving Iowa State issues, though mostly because Iowa State was containing Tavon. Then came this … and watch the defense follow Alston to the right, even though Tavon is coming right to left.