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October 7, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU’s Buie steps up big against Texas

MORGANTOWN — West Virginia University may house the Heisman Trophy winner this year, but don’t be so fast giving it to Geno Smith, not with Andrew Buie around.

Andrew Buie? A running back, on the West Virginia team? A guy who wasn’t even the starting running back when the season began.

Yes, sir. That Andrew Buie.

Oh, Smith did his usual thing on Saturday night as West Virginia defeated Texas, 48-45 … 25 for 35 passing, 265 yards and four touchdowns, three of them to Stedman Bailey and one to Tavon Austin, either of whom would be a Heisman contender themselves with their play were they on another team.

But if the suggestion that Buie could win the Heisman was tongue-in-cheek, he at least claimed this night’s Heisman, just as a year ago Dustin Garrison came out of nowhere to gain 295 rushing yards in a game.

But that was against Bowling Green at home. This was against Texas, one of the nation’s legendary programs with a record crowd of 101,851 on hand in a spectacular ball game, and he gained 208 yards on 31 carries with two touchdowns.

“First of all, the line did a phenomenal job up front. My fullbacks did a great job in front of me,” Buie would say later in the locker room.

He was as modest as he was good, unwilling to say that he was the key player in this game, coach Dana Holgorsen having decided early in the week that he would run the ball this week against a Texas defense that sells out to rush the passer.

“We decided early in the week we wanted to be able to run the football,” Holgorsen explained. “We committed to it and stuck with it. The guys up front did a great job of blocking and Cody Clay did a great job of blocking. Buie just really ran hard.”

The line, the running back, the receivers, Smith … and then some special plays on special teams from Austin and a defense that really isn’t playing very well, giving up 108 points in two games, making what should be routs into nailbiters.

But even there, cornerback Pat Miller, much maligned all season, saved the day knocking a fourth-down pass away to end a scoring threat.

This one really was that overused and clichéd team victory.

Perhaps what said more about this West Virginia team than anything occurred late in the game, as the Mountaineers were running down the clock, handing the ball to Buie and watching him spin for yardage, drive for yardage and finally run into the end zone.

It happened about 1,400 miles away from Darrell K. Royal – Memorial Stadium, right here in Morgantown.

Shawne Alston was nursing a thigh bruise for the third straight week and surely Buie’s performance had knocked him out of his starting job and he knew it, yet in those closing seconds this was what he put on Twitter:

“After this win I wonder if #mountaineerNation gone meet the team at the stadium. I know I am lol?”

All Alston cared about at the moment was not his job, simply about the team, about the magnitude of this victory that he could not contribute to.

It is that way and why when it was over Smith’s remarks were not about the heroics of anyone but the heroics of everyone.

“We stuck together and won as a team,” he said even before he went into the locker room.

It was mentioned to him that he and his team had gone through not just a small amount of adversity in this one but had really been tested, both as players and as men, Smith in particular.

He had done nothing wrong all season and had come into the game with 222 consecutive passes without an interception and came out of it with 257. But this one was a test of character, not of skill.

“You know what? I have some great teammates and coaches. They kept me up during the game. I had two fumbles in the red zone and gave them two chances,” he said.

But they wouldn’t let him hold his head down, not when he fumbled and not when the team fell behind.

That allowed Smith to be there at the end, to drive the team the length of the field and throw a 6-yard TD pass, a laser of a pass, to Bailey in the end zone that gave WVU the lead at 41-38 with 4:10 left, a lead they would not relinquish as they went to 5-0 with their first Big 12 road victory.

Email Bob Hertzel at Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

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