"Scary" Shawne Alston Carries the Load - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

"Scary" Shawne Alston Carries the Load


West Virginia implemented a balanced attack to dominate the scoreboard in the final edition of the Friends of Coal Bowl, but it was the manner in which it ran the ball that got the players on the field and fans in the stands excited.

Shawne Alston took the ball on the third play from scrimmage and rumbled ahead for 10 yards. He flat out plowed over the Marshall defenders who got in his way, knocking off linebackers and defensive backs like they were peewee contenders.

"I always try to run with a purpose, but Coach [Dana] Holgorsen did a good job of telling me that if the run game opened up, that he was going to keep feeding me and he just feeding it to me and I kept producing," Alston said after the game.

The crowd reacted to the bruising style with which Alston ran and his teammates, who know full well what he is capable of coming into the game, had their confidence reinforced.

"I think that's scary for a defense," Geno Smith said. "We have speed backs, scat backs and good guys in the program, but when you have a power back who just wears that defense down, you could see late in the game, those guys really didn't want to tackle him because he runs so hard every down."

Alston is no Andrew Buie. He is no Dustin Garrison, Noel Devine or even Steve Slaton. He is a powerful back with a mixture of serious speed and the hard-nosed downhill rushing of a fullback.

At 5-foot-11, 236 pounds, he weighs more that both Ryan Clarke and Donovan Miles, the two Mountaineers tasked with blocking for him out of the backfield.

Up front, Alston's offensive line gets a kick out of the style in which he attacks defenses.

"I know if he comes through the hole, we're at least getting four or five yards even if I don't block anybody," Alston's center, Joe Madsen, said earlier in the week.

If Madsen and the other four on the line do make their blocks, though, the results can be what they were on Saturday. With a clear path to the second level of the defense, Alston is taking on athletes who are similar to his size or smaller. It creates an advantage for a back who prefers to deliver the hit than to avoid taking it.

In his senior season debut, Alston finished with 16 carries for 123 yards and two scores.

"Last year, I was just down on the sidelines because I wasn't able to help my team and we definitely struggled against Marshall a little bit last year," says Alston. "Today, I just tried to come out and give it my all because you never know when you'll have to stop playing or when you'll be able to play. It makes you want to go out there and fight as hard as you can and be grateful for the opportunity."

This is the opportunity Alston has been waiting for. He's gotten his fair share of carries in the past, but just when he seems poised to break out and stand out above the others at his position, he is forced back by injuries or a change in game plan.

After his performance in the Orange Bowl, he hasn't dared look back.

"I put Shawne in and he took advantage of his opportunity," head coach Dana Holgorsen said after the game. "We all know that he was hurt last year and we didn't have him in the spring, we didn't have him for about five games, and he got better as the year went on. Then in the offseason, he got himself in shape. He is healthy and feels good and is a leader. It's hard not to name him a captain, but we have other guys."

Holgorsen admits that the real reason Alston was left out of being named a captain was simply because he hasn't had the starting experience that others have had. Defensive lineman Will Clarke and cornerback Pat Miller received that honor. So did Madsen and Smith.

Even before Saturday's performance, though, the players who share the locker room with Alston believed he was worthy of walking out as a captain. 

"He's definitely one of the captains of the team. He's been that way since he's been here, since he was a freshman. He's always been mature and he's a guy who has made me step up my level of maturity because he handles things on and off the field so well."

Saturday's outcome was a payoff of sorts. It was what Alston and his teammates believe is a sign of things to come.

For an offense that has built its reputation through the air, Alston is the pounding ground attack that will keep defenses off balance and, if Geno Smith is to be believed, will keep them scared.

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