The football floated wobbly through the Texas night, shorter than the Colorado punter had hoped it would be, knowing that waiting for it was a Texas Tech tornado who turns punts into touchdowns.
When Wes Welker, then a Red Raider, gathered the football in, two blockers took care of the first man downfield. Wes Welker took care of the second, third and fourth, making each miss before he broke open, cut diagonally across the field from the left sideline toward the right corner of the end zone, into which he raced with his eighth punt return for a touchdown.
No one had ever run as many back for scores, Welker having set the NCAA record.
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The video turned to black and Tavon Austin had seen enough.
The West Virginia wide receiver has been watching a lot of Wes Welker video these days, video from before he became an NFL star with the New England Patriots. Instead, he is watching him in his days at Texas Tech, running at the slot position under a young up-and-coming offensive coordinator named Dana Holgorsen.
Holgorsen and his offense have created a lot of great receivers, Biletnikoff Award winners as the best in college football. The latest was Justin Blackmon at Oklahoma State last season, a receiver who played the slot like Austin.
Holgorsen doesn’t push his former receivers on his current players, doesn’t even force feed their tape to his new West Virginia players to show them how he wants it done, for he believes each receiver has his own skill set, his own natural way of working.
“I don’t ask about them guys,” Austin admitted. “The only thing he said was that Blackmon worked hard. He doesn’t show us film of him.”
That does not, however, mean Austin avoids the tape that is available.
“I go in alone and watch film some, but it’s more Wes Walker than anyone else. He’s more a slot guy like me,” he said.
But the truth be known, Austin is watching the punt returns as much as the receiving, for he has this passion to return punts this season, a passion that will be fulfilled and could produce some wonderful tape for someone down the line to watch.