Austin Back to Rushing Roots in Record Fashion - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Austin Back to Rushing Roots in Record Fashion


It only took him four years, but Tavon Austin finally played the role he was expected to when he came to West Virginia.

Maryland high schools became accustomed to seeing the Baltimore native run all over their defenses, but in three seasons in Morgantown, the role of running back was secondary to his time lined up wide at receiver.

For the first time, in a game where WVU was desperately searching for an answer to put the team back on track, Austin became the feature back for the Mountaineers.

With Austin exploding for 344 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 21 carries in a 50-49 loss to Oklahoma, West Virginia head coach Dana Holgorsen was forced to admit after the game that the position change was likely overdue.

"Probably should've done it four years ago," Holgorsen said. "Tremendous football player, best guy on the field. Hindsight, probably should've done it earlier than this."

Evidently, it is a move that Austin had been lobbying for recently as the WVU ground game continued to sputter over the course of the now five-game losing streak.

"I had said a couple things to coach Holgorsen and the coaching staff about putting me back there a couple times. I didn't think I was going to get it 21 times," said Austin. "I always told them that's what I did in high school, and I still have it a little bit. Some games they give it to me a little bit in zone. That's why I wanted to run it up the middle, and they gave me a chance. I'm just glad I was able to make a couple plays for them."

Lonnie Galloway saw this coming.

When the former West Virginia wide receivers coach recruited Austin to play for the Mountaineers, it was with the intention of lining him up in the backfield and handing him the rock. It's what the kid did in high school and he just so happened to appear to have all of the skills to translate that success to the next level.

Galloway considered Austin his biggest triumph in the recruiting scene and pulled out all of the stops along the way to ensure that the speedster landed in Morgantown to do exactly what he showed Saturday night.

Well, maybe not exactly.

Galloway may not have envisioned the school records for all-purpose and rushing yards falling in one night when he laid out the No. 1 jersey for Austin on his visit. He knew the high schooler sitting in his office would be special, but even for the kid we were told could make you miss in a phone booth, the performance against the Sooners was beyond expectations.

"When we got here, this offense, we decided he was a guy that you want to play at receiver," running back coach Robert Gillespie said. "But as a staff, we've always known that the best guy with the ball in his hands is Tavon Austin. I don't think many people have him."

Austin ran the ball with such flair in each step. He danced and high-stepped behind his offensive line, shaking defenders out of their shoes before he even hit the hole to get downfield. If a defensive back challenged him in the secondary, he simply outran them to the sideline for extra yards.

It was another dimension of the game for Austin, who finished just shy of the all-time all-purpose yards record with 572. He broke WVU's single game record in the third quarter.

The special package West Virginia had implemented to take advantage of getting Austin touches was just about as simple, yet effective, as it can get.

"Two plays. To the left and to the right," Austin said, laughing, after the game.

After what resulted in that two-play outing, it may be wise to continue to block for him exactly the same way and just let the most electrifying player in gold and blue do the rest of the work.

His vision and his athleticism have combined to make a startlingly difficult task for any opposing defense throughout his career and now, just as it nears its end, yet another weapon has been added.

A game between West Virginia and Oklahoma brought a number of professional scouts to Morgantown and there is no doubt that the show Austin put on gained him a significant amount of money in his future rookie year contract.

Despite the gains he made on the ground, Austin said he would not go back and relive his career at a different position.

"I think it would still play slot," he said. "Just for my reasoning only, for my dream to play in the NFL. I don't think I would last in the NFL as a running back. If I do get that chance then I'd like to go in the backfield a couple times. But I wouldn't change anything; I'd stay a slot receiver."

Regardless of whether or not he would make a change in the past, the future will take an altered path. There is no denying Austin the ball out of the backfield after this latest performance.

With no more than three games left in his career, Austin has shown that he is nowhere near his ceiling, and West Virginia has found a weapon it could have used weeks ago.

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