MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Before the season started, it wouldn't have been too much of a reach to predict a Pitt running back would lead the nation in all-purpose running and rank No. 3 in rushing yards per game after a few weeks.
The gamble would have been saying Ray Graham would hold those honors and not Dion Lewis.
Yet Graham has three consecutive 100-yard games and is averaging 236.33 total yards per game and 164 rushing yards for the Panthers. He filled in last week against Florida International for an injured Lewis, who set the Big East's freshman rushing record last season with 1,799 yards, and finished with 277 yards and three scores.
Only Tony Dorsett has run for more in a game for Pitt.
"I don't think they knew that Graham was Graham until he actually had a chance to do it," said West Virginia running backs coach Chris Beatty.
That's an interesting way of putting it as it relates to the Mountaineers (3-1) entering Saturday's 3:30 p.m. game against UNLV (1-4) at Mountaineer Field. Starting running back Noel Devine is bothered by a bone bruise on his right big toe, and the plan for him this week is very simple.
"We're going to run him enough to win the football game," Coach Bill Stewart said. "If he can't go or if, God forbid, something happens in the pregame or early in the game and he gets hurt, we'll go to a Plan B."
The backup would most likely be fullback Ryan Clarke in large part because the Mountaineers know what they have in Clarke and aren't yet sure what they have in reserve running backs Trey Johnson, Shawne Alston and Daquan Hargrett.
At least, not sure what they have in a game situation. Johnson carried three times for 7 yards late in the season opener against Coastal Carolina. Alston and Hargrett haven't run the ball this season.
Ideally, WVU gets ahead of the Rebels, who are No. 106 in rushing defense, and can rest Devine either throughout the game or in the second half with the Big East opener coming Thursday against South Florida.
In doing so, the Mountaineers would likely feature Johnson and get carries for Alston and Hargrett, if for no other reason than figuring things out about those players.
The offense is different with Clarke at tailback because he's asked to do things he can do, things that are different from what Devine is asked to do. Finding someone else who can do things more like Devine is a goal, but identifying that person calls for an audition.
"I don't know if you ever know what they're going to do when they get out there," Beatty said.