The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 8, 2012

HERTZEL COLUMN: WVU’s Buie turns heads in opener

MORGANTOWN — Things worked out far better than anyone could have expected considering the state of affairs of the running game when Dana Holgorsen took over the reins of West Virginia University’s football team.

At the time he had four running backs — Shawne Alston, whose future was in doubt due to a neck injury suffered when he was tackled from behind while driving a car; and a trio of freshmen who reeked of potential but were completely unknown items.

They were Vernard Roberts, who played sparingly and eventually left the program; Andrew Buie, who started the first game of Holgorsen’s head coaching career but who showed only flashes of what he could do, and Dustin Garrison, who eventually wrested the job away via a 291-yard performance against a Bowling Green team that is still waiting for its first tackle of him that day.

The situation looked even more grim when Garrison went down with a serious knee injury while preparing for the Orange Bowl game … a game that finally gave Alston a chance to shine and led to the discovery that he could be a No. 1 rather than a situational running back.

Alston had only this year left in his WVU career, and when they tried to build depth by recruiting a pair of talented running backs, neither made it to opening day, leaving the position dreadfully undermanned, at least until Garrison gets up to speed and gives them three capable runners.

That Alston came roaring out of the gate was not necessarily surprising, given the fact he has accepted leadership of the offense in his senior season and the confidence built on the Orange Bowl’s performance, but what seemed to be a stunner was Buie’s ability to gain 80 rushing yards on six carries, 13.3 yards a carry, while grabbing 31 yards of passes, making him a perfect complement to Alston in the Marshall opener.

While Alston was simply building on what he established last season, Buie was a completely new product, a bigger, stronger version of a kid who showed great potential leading into last season.

The coaching staff, in a way, had a feel for him before he got to WVU, back when they saw him in a crucial situation as a senior in Jacksonville, Fla.

It was the 1-A state championship game two years ago, and Buie’s Trinity Christian Academy was leading with about a minute and 50 seconds left in the third quarter, but the lead had been dwindling since they built it over American Heritage and now it was third-and-15.

“Our momentum had started to die,” Buie recalls.

They called his number. This is significant in itself, for Trinity had a pair of running backs heading for Division I football in Ahmad Christian and Buie.

“It was an outside run,” Buie explained. “A linebacker ducked his head and somehow missed me like … eh, miserably? I cut back across the field and from there it was open field, and I just ran and scored. That changed the whole complexion of the game.”

What said more about Buie was the celebration, or lack of one. He did not go running in front of the grandstand, pulling out on his jersey, exalting himself. He looked for teammates, the linemen who blocked, and turned it into a team thing.

“I never have been the type of person who takes self-glory. I always credit my teammates. If the linemen hadn’t done their job, I wouldn’t have gotten to that point. It feels good as a group when I can say we’re winning as a team than everyone just looking at me,” he explained.

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