The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

May 5, 2013

HERTZEL COLUMN: Outstanding performances and players

MORGANTOWN — Not quite sure what this speaks to, but it is rather strange that the man who holds West Virginia University’s single-game school rushing record is a wide receiver.

You might remember it, for it came just a few months back when coach Dana Holgorsen, looking for something to shake his team up at home against Oklahoma, took Tavon Austin out of the slot and put him on the spot in the backfield.

Proving that his ability to set the career high school rushing record in Maryland was hardly a fluke, Austin simply left the Sooners gasping and grasping at thin air as he wiggled and jiggled through them for 344 rushing yards. It was the most rushing yardage any running back had ever recorded for the Mountaineers and more yards than the entire team had gained in any single game during the season.

Certainly, this is impressive but even more so when one considers he went beyond anything ever compiled by two of the top 25 running backs to play in college football since the BCS was founded, according to Athlon Magazine, which has put together rankings of the top 50 running backs and quarterbacks during that time.

According to Athlon, the greatest running back at West Virginia during the BCS era was Steve Slaton, whom they put at No. 21 despite his leaving a year early.

Was he the greatest runner at the school?

It could be argued that he was only the third best, ranking behind two non-running backs, one of them being Austin, who proved his abilities in his only real chance against a storied program.

The other, of course, proved his worth almost every game, but Pat White did so out of the quarterback position, so much so that mostly on the strength of his running ability he was ranking the No. 13 best quarterback of the era.

But back to Slaton, about whom the magazine wrote:

The mid-level recruit from Pennsylvania showed college coaches around the nation what they missed on by rushing for at least 1,000 yards and 16 touchdowns in each of his three seasons. His speed and big-play potential fit perfectly in Rich Rodriguez’s zone read scheme, and had he not left early for the NFL, would have rewritten the WVU record books.

As it was, of course, he did not rewrite the record books, because those records are owned by one of the toughest, most durable running backs any school has ever had, Avon Cobourne, who was ranked just behind Slaton at No. 23.

This was Athlon’s summation of Cobourne:

The Big East’s all-time leading rusher burst onto the scene with a 1,138-yard, 10-TD season as a true freshman in 1999. The Camden, N.J., prospect capped his stellar four-year starting career with a 1,710-yard, 17-TD season as a senior. The short but burly back was a true workhorse who still sits atop the Mountaineers all-time rushing list.

While Slaton went on to a NFL career, Cobourne built a career in Canada, one that just came to a close.

The two not only were outstanding players, but you can’t find either of them getting into any kind of trouble, as is true of the other running back who was ranked among the top 100, Noel Devine, who came in at No. 93.

By now, of course, you are wondering just who Athlon anointed as the top running back of the BCS era, and it’s hard to argue with their Top 10 list until you get to No. 10. Reading it down backward it is:

10. DeAngelo Williams, Memphis

9. Montee Ball, Wisconsin

8. Ray Rice, Rutgers

7. Darren Sproles, Kansas State

6. Reggie Busch, USC

5. LaDanian Tomlinson, TCU

4. Darren McFadden, Arkansas

3. Ron Dayne, Wisconsin

2. Ricky Williams, Texas

1. Adrian Peterson, Oklahoma.

As for the quarterback rankings, White drew this analysis from the magazine:

He left school as the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher as a quarterback and was a stalwart in Morgantown for four years. He earned Big East Player of the Year honors twice and is the only player in NCAA history to start and win four bowl games. He finished sixth and seventh in the Heisman voting in 2006 and ’07 and has a Big East-record 103 total touchdowns.

And Geno Smith? Despite a record-setting career he did not draw as high a ranking as you may suspect, perhaps riding that 7-6 record and dismal bowl loss to Syracuse to end his collegiate career. He was ranked No. 41.

As for the Top 10? You might have an opinion different than the magazines.

1. Vince Young, Texas

2. Tim Tebow, Florida

3. Matt Leinhart, USC

4. Andrew Luck, Stanford

5. Robert Griffin III, Baylor

6. Michael Vick, Virginia Tech

7. AJ McCarron, Alabama

8. Chris Weinke, Florida State

9. Sam Bradford, Oklahoma

10. Kellen Moore, Boise State

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