The Times West Virginian

Sports

November 29, 2012

‘Electric’ Austin set to light up finale

MORGANTOWN — In truth, there has never been anything like it before at West Virginia University and there may not be anything like it in the future, for Tavon Austin is a once-in-a-lifetime football player.

He shows it every game, every week, has for four years, and now he is looking at playing his final game on Mountaineer Field, which is what it was when he came and always will be to all those who were here to watch the greats who preceded him in the stadium.

Kansas is the final home opponent, a team that has fallen on extremely hard times but knows something about special players, having had a running back of its own named Gale Sayers back in the day, a player who was smooth as Austin is electric, as evasive as Austin himself has become either at the slot receiver position or as a running back.

A year ago, it will be recalled, he caught 100 passes and did his thing with the ball in his hands, gaining 1,186 yards with eight touchdowns. This year he stood at the threshold of another 100-catch, 1,000-yard season when coach Dana Holgorsen opted to put him at running back.

He expected good things and got greatness, almost singlehandedly beating Oklahoma with a performance unlike any other in school history, rushing for 344 yards while catching passes for 82 yards and returning kickoffs for 146 yards.

This kind of thing was there ever since he arrived at WVU in 2009 carrying the weight of having been the greatest running back ever in Maryland high school history, showing a flash with a 58-yard touchdown reception against East Carolina that freshman year.

Had Holgorsen felt he needed to make the move with Austin earlier this year, or even last year, who knows what the world would have come to see. But he didn’t feel it was necessary, and certainly you can’t argue, as the team was Orange Bowl champion last year and 5-0 at the start of this year with points as plentiful as beers consumed on a Saturday night in downtown Morgantown after a victory.

Might it have been better had Holgorsen made the move? Is there a coaching lesson in it for him?

Here is the way he sees that as the 2012 regular season flows off into the past.

“We have been trying to find ways to get him the ball,” Holgorsen emphasized. “Tavon has caught over 200 passes in two years. Have we failed getting him the ball? No.”

At the same time, though, Holgorsen admitted it’s easier to get him the ball if he is standing there right next to Geno Smith, and that is probably why he decided to change things up. Oklahoma seemed vulnerable in the way it played defense to handing him the ball.

“This was experimental, but he has handled it pretty well. Would it have benefited us to do this six games ago? Probably,” he said.

But there’s a catch to it.

“You can’t come up with a whole bunch of experimental things when you are in game-planning mode,” he said.

It’s like if you have a weapon that can wipe out the world. Do you need one that can wipe out the universe?

Certainly it changed things for WVU’s offense. And it was just the start. Last week Shawne Alston returned against Iowa State and now you had the two of them back there.

Iowa State was gearing to stop Austin.

“The box was much more challenging last week against Iowa State. You guys could see that there wasn’t a ton of space. He never really got out in the open. He was still able to get five or six yards a pop, though,” Holgorsen said.

“There are still some things that it takes practice time and reps to play the position. We don’t have the time left in his career to teach him those things. Could he do it? Absolutely. I don’t think there are things that the kid couldn’t do.”

So he was something of a decoy with Alston getting the most carries, gaining 130 yards while Austin chipped away, then broke the game-winning touchdown by scampering 75 yards on a touch pass from Smith.

In a way, this gave Austin as much of a kick as he got out of tearing Oklahoma to shreds.

“It was definitely fun to see the defense kind of confused,” Austin told the Charleston Daily Mail after the Iowa State game. “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.”

And now he will try to mess up the mentality of a Kansas team that already is badly shaken, doing the things everyone will remember him doing, making the moves that can’t be made.

“He’s ridiculous. Sometimes I catch myself just watching him,” WVU senior center Joey Madsen said. “I got laid out on the last play of the Iowa State game because I was watching Tavon make people look silly. I was like, ‘Wow.’ I was about to laugh, the play was almost over and I just got blown up.”

Jeff Braun, the senior guard, understands.

“I never got nailed like that,” he said. “I try to avoid that, keep my head on a swivel. Joe locked in on that play, but the one he broke in the Oklahoma game, wow! We were going to the left. I blocked my guy. Tavon cut back and almost ran into me. I couldn’t believe he cut across the grain like that. He went from all the way on the left sideline and wound up all the way on the right. I had to get out of his way and I was blocking someone.

“He’s just an electric player. The way he can change his speeds and cut — you have to be born with that.”

And now you have one more chance to see him do his thing at home on a Saturday. Next year he’ll be playing on Sundays.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
Sports
  • Big ‘I’ golf coming to Pete Dye

    The Trusted Choice Big “I” National Championship will make its first trip to West Virginia when Pete Dye Golf Club hosts the 46th annual installment of the event Aug. 5-8.

    July 29, 2014

  • Charges against Smallwood dropped

    West Virginia University running back Wendell Smallwood took to Twitter mid-afternoon Tuesday to express his feelings after charges of witness intimidation against him were dropped by the state of Delaware.

    July 29, 2014

  • Return to Mountain State exciting for new sports writer

    When I packed my belongings out of my Morgantown apartment in May, fresh with a journalism degree from West Virginia University, I thought I had ended a chapter of my life and closed the book on my experience inside the great Mountain State forever.
    It wasn’t until I received a phone call back in my hometown of Canton, Ohio, from the Times West Virginian that the idea of a return to the area became a possibility. The opportunity to begin my professional career in an area that I’ve become comfortable with for the past several years was too good to pass by.

    July 29, 2014

  • Black Diamond.jpg Black Diamond Express looking to add elite players

     Travel sports are said to be the cream of the crop for young athletes.
    Generally, youth are selected to play on travel league teams based upon a heightened skill level or an ability that exceeds the everyday athlete.
    That’s what the Black Diamond Express softball team in Morgantown is looking for, along with a few new elite players.

    July 29, 2014 1 Photo

  • Steelers’ Spence caps lengthy comeback

    The whistle blew and Sean Spence sprinted forward, each cathartic step distancing the linebacker from the horrific knee injury that threatened to end his NFL career before it even really began.

    July 28, 2014

  • All tickets claimed for LeBron’s homecoming show

    LeBron James’ Ohio hometown says fans quickly claimed the thousands of tickets available for the homecoming event expected to be his first public appearance in the state since announcing his return to the Cleveland Cavaliers.

    July 28, 2014

  • FSU to hold Falcon Fantasy Camp

    Ever want to be a college football coach? Now you’ll have your chance thanks to Fairmont State University’s Falcon Fantasy Camp.

    July 28, 2014

  • Lawyer: Wife plotted to take over Sterling trust

    A lawyer argued Monday that the estranged wife of Donald Sterling plotted to strip his client from the family trust that owned the Los Angeles Clippers after the head of the NBA said she couldn’t negotiate a sale of the franchise unless she owned all the shares.

    July 28, 2014

  • Were Bowlsby’s fears about college athletics’ future justified?

    I have never met or even talked to Bob Bowlsby, commissioner of the Big 12 Conference.
    But I did read a lengthy story on his 45-minute address to reporters last week on Media Day in Dallas, Texas. Among other things, Bowlsby forecast a startling change threatening the existence of intercollegiate athletics as we have known for these many, many years.

    July 28, 2014

  • Steelers’ Wheaton eyeing chance after tough rookie year

    Markus Wheaton realizes the pressure is there, but he doesn’t mind.

    July 28, 2014

Featured Ads
NDN Sports
House Ads
Auto Racing Photos
Auto Racing Breaking News
Auto Racing Standings