The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

October 7, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN: Garrison stays grounded after big game

MORGANTOWN — Perhaps the most telling thing about Dustin Garrison, West Virginia University’s latest football hero, came on Sunday when he reported back to Milan Puskar Stadium after having run for 291 yards in a victory over Bowling Green.

At no time did he approach Dan Nehlen, the equipment manager, and ask for a new helmet, one that would fit onto his ego-bloated size 8 head, for there was no need.

True, there was reason to suffer from an inflamed ego. The 291 yards were the most ever by a WVU freshman, the second most yards ever gained on the ground by WVU running back. His name was on every radio newscast and telecast, it stretched from Alaska to Zanzibar on the Internet.

Newspapers bannered his accomplishment in headlines of 72 point type and larger.

It seemed all that was left was to sign a contract for the biography along with a major motion picture.

Heady stuff, for sure, but as Saturday’s noon Big East opener against Connecticut at Milan Puskar Stadium approaches, Garrison has done a wonderful job of keeping his feet squarely planted on the ground, fully aware that it is far easier to make those quick, unexpected cuts that way.

One game, even the best rushing game ever by a WVU freshman, does not a career make and Garrison knows it.

“You go out there and make things happen. Then after a day or two you have to settle down and realize you have another game the following week. I have to practice and leave that behind me,” he said during Tuesday’s player interviews.

In some situations, this might be difficult to do. Not here at West Virginia. Not as a Mountaineer running back.

“Gillespie is always on me to stay hungry and make things happen,” he said.

Gillespie would be running backs coach Robert Gillespie, a one-time Florida player who is a non-nonsense, what-have-you-done-for-me-lately kind of coach.

“He doesn’t let me get too high. He’s real tough and he’s straight forward. He’s making sure I am the same Dustin I was in high school,” Garrison said.

Gillespie understands the forces that tug away at a player as he reaches success, be it being featured on Sports Center or simply having your choice of coeds on Saturday night.

 “I don’t think any of this will get to him. It’s my job to make sure it doesn’t,” Gillespie said. “It’s you guys’ job and everybody around campus’s job to tell him how good he is. It’s my job is to point out the little things and make sure he gets better.”

There’s a fine line there, one where a coach has to acknowledge the success, sit it in the sunlight as if it were plant that was ready to bloom, yet at the same time keep it just a bit thirsty for more knowledge on how to improve.

That comes out of a relationship, one that seems to be strong and growing between coach and player.

Gillespie was recruiting Garrison before he and Dana Holgorsen made the jump from Oklahoma State to WVU. When he took the job he gave him a call to let him know.

“Not a lot of coaches gave me a chance to play college ball. But Gillespie and Coach Holgorsen gave me a chance and I feel I have to show them they made the right call,” he said.

Gillespie finds himself walking something of a tightrope, as he has to keep Garrison grounded after the performance and his other backs – Andrew Buie, Vernard Roberts and Shawne Alston — inspired and competing for a job.

He says he doesn’t believe that Garrison’s performance would deflate the others about their chances.

“There’s nothing about that performance that would have kept those guys from wanting to get better,” he said. “Everyone was excited for Dustin. The one thing I’m excited about is I have a room full of guys who want to see everyone do well.”

Indeed, some of the most sincere congratulations came from the other running backs.

“Everyone was proud of me, the whole running back brigade,” said Garrison. “They’re great guys. They can make plays. This week will be exciting. Everyone will get a chance. Gillespie makes it competition constantly. He makes us work for a spot. He’s still doing that.”

The message certainly has gotten through to Garrison.

“There’s always a competition, no matter how great a game you have. You have to work at it. That’s even more of a reason to fight and keep it up,” he said.

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com. Follow on Twitter @bhertzel.

1
Text Only
WVU Sports
  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.
    The Mountaineers are scheduled to play N.C. State in Raleigh on Sept. 15, 2018, and then play host to the Wolfpack on Sept. 14, 2019.

    July 24, 2014

  • HERTZEL COLUMN: ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 24, 2014

  • ‘Cheating pays’ remark should draw attention

    When Bob Bowlsby, the outspoken commissioner of the Big 12, presented his opening-day picture of the future of college sports in Dallas for the annual media day gathering, his bleak comments were not unexpected.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, N.C. State to meet in football

    Following a trend of creating non-conference games against regional opponents, West Virginia University has reached agreement with North Carolina State to play a home-and-home football series in 2018 and 2019.

    July 23, 2014

  • WVU, Tennessee finalize 2018 meeting

    West Virginia University and Tennessee have finalized their season-opening, Sept. 1, 2018, meeting in Charlotte, N.C., at Bank of America Stadium.
    Both teams will receive $2.5 million for the game and have a chance to earn up to $3.2 million with ticket incentives.
    Each team will buy 12,500 tickets and set aside 2,000 of its allotment for students.
    The game, played on the home field of the Carolina Panthers of the NFL, is being put on by the Charlotte Sports Federation.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 23, 2014

  • Fleming, Billy.jpg WVU’s Fleming signs contract with Yankees

     Second baseman Billy Fleming of the West Virginia University baseball team has signed a professional contract with the New York Yankees, foregoing his upcoming senior season.
    “Ever since I was a little kid, it’s been my dream to play professional baseball,” Fleming said. “It is still surreal that I get to chase my dream, but I am ready to get after it. I loved my three years at WVU and want to thank all the coaches that made it possible for me to achieve my dream.”

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Big 12 Media Days Foo_time(1).jpg Trickett’s play key factor for Mountaineers’ success

     In the end, it comes down to the quarterback.
    Always has with Dana Holgorsen, always will.
    Quarterback is the offense with the West Virginia University coach. When he does well, the team wins – almost always.
    When he does poorly, the team doesn’t stand much of a chance.

    July 23, 2014 1 Photo

  • Growing demands on college athletes concerns Wyant

    Fred Wyant, one of the greatest quarterbacks in West Virginia University’s history, has lashed out at today’s growing demands on college athletes.
    The 80-year-old Star City resident led the Mountaineers to a 30-4 record as the starter from 1952-1955. Percentage-wise, it’s clearly the best-ever record by a QB in school annals.
    Wyant, a member of the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, came here after graduating with honors from Weston High School. That’s where WVU coach Art “Pappy” Lewis signed him to a four-year scholarship.

    July 23, 2014

  • Holgorsen’s program hits turning point

    You can almost sense, as you watch West Virginia University football coach Dana Holgorsen sit before the gathered Big 12 media contingent answering questions in the Omni Hotel in Arlington, Texas, that he senses his program has reached a turning point.

    July 22, 2014

Featured Ads
WVU Sports Highlights
NDN Sports
House Ads
NCAA Breaking News
NCAA Photos