The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

September 6, 2011

Austin shines on returns, not a factor elsewhere

MORGANTOWN — The tendency is, if you have 600 or 700 or so words to use on the West Virginia Mountaineers’ curtain-raising 34-13 victory over Marshall on Sunday, to use most of them extolling slot receiver Tavon Austin.

He was, after all, the hero of that victory.

Hero? Yes. Star? No.

See, coach Dana Holgorsen, who made his head coaching debut in the game that was shortened to just more than three quarters from a dangerous electrical storm that produced rain, hail and lightning, saw the dark side of his performance.

Let us first recap, as Holgorsen did, the Tavon Austin who performed so well returning kicks that he was named the Big East’s Special Team Player of the Week.

“He had a good kick return with a good scheme by coach (Daron) Roberts,” Holgorsen said following the game. “We had a plan and the kids executed it. We had a couple of punt returns, he averaged 15 yards per punt return, so he was good in his return game, but it’s something he will be good at every game.”

Indeed he will, for there really is nothing to limit him in the return game short of the goal line. Against Marshall he took a kickoff back 103 yards for a score, a return that officially is listed as 100 yards by rule. It was the second 100-yard kickoff return of his career.

One can only imagine that it won’t be long before opponents stop kicking the ball to him, for there just is no upside to it, so good is his ability to operate in the open field.

But there was another side to Austin’s game, a very disappointing side. He was supposed to be a threat out of the slot, not only a touchdown maker but an excitement maker.

That really didn’t happen, although he had three catches for 32 yards.

“He played poor on offense. He played really poor on offense,” said Holgorsen.

One suspects that includes blocking, a requirement for the receivers, something that was made evident on a run by Andrew Buie, the freshman running back who won the starting job. His final carry saw him crushed by a Marshall linebacker, a hit that left him bruised and out of the game and questionable for next week.

“He took a good shot that welcomed him to college football,” Holgorsen said. “It was receiver breakdown and the guy blew him up.”

Holgorsen did not pin that on Austin, but it wouldn’t be surprising if it was his missed block, for Holgorsen was upset with Austin on more than one occasion.

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