WVU football: Alston hopes to return to the lineup this week
MORGANTOWN - No. 9 West Virginia hopes to have its leading rusher back in the starting lineup Saturday against No. 25 Baylor.
Coach Dana Holgorsen said senior Shawne Alston, who has 185 yards and three touchdowns and averages 6.5 yards per carry this season, remains "day-to-day" with a thigh bruise that severely limited him in the Maryland victory.
Alston played just a few snaps and didn't carry the ball. Holgorsen said Alston could have played more, but that the coaching staff decided to be cautious. That won't change this week and Holgorsen said Alston needed to get through the week's three practices to play in the noon FX game at Mountaineer Field.
"Do I expect that to happen?" Holgorsen said. "I do."
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THE MOUNTAINEERS had just 25 yards rushing on 25 carries against Maryland, but six of those were pass plays. Quarterback Geno Smith was sacked twice and had to run four other times. Holgorsen decided to pass on 49 of the team's 68 offensive plays.
Running back Andrew Buie handled 14 of the runs, one shy of his career high, while running back Dustin Garrison made his 2012 debut. Garrison had been out as he recovered from tearing his left ACL in December.
"We had one back," Holgorsen said. "If we gave it to him 25 times, we probably wouldn't have him this week. You've got to be careful about wearing people out."
The Mountaineers also lost running back Ryan Clarke during the game to an undisclosed leg injury and played without running back Donovan Miles. Clarke and Miles are WVU's top blocking backs. Neither was mentioned by Holgorsen Tuesday, meaning they are also day-to-day.
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THE OFFENSES are better in the Big 12 Conference and the defenses aren't as critical to a team's success, but the most important change from the Big East Conference to WVU's new league is not how the game is played, but how many Mountaineers will play it.
"Probably the biggest difference is the amount of kids that play in the games," Holgorsen said. "When you'd go into a Big East game, you planned on playing about 40 kids, which happened last year here and has happened here for a long time. It's hard to do that now when you're taking this many snaps."
Baylor is averaging 78 snaps on offense and facing 86 on defense. The ninth-ranked Mountaineers average 72 snaps on offense and 79 on defense. Already this season WVU has had Marshall snap the ball 101 times, matching the most ever against WVU.
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HOLGORSEN AND Baylor Coach Art Briles were on the Texas Tech staff together from 2000-02, but Holgorsen has only coached against Briles once. As an assistant in 2010, Holgorsen coordinated the Cowboys offense that beat Baylor 55-28.
The two are nevertheless fond of and familiar with one another. Holgorsen was part of Kevin Sumlin's Houston staff that followed Briles when he left the Cougars to coach Baylor and Holgorsen has looked at what Baylor does on offense ever since.
At his press conference Tuesday, Holgorsen highlighted the unique way the Bears substitute players to create matchup advantages.
"They're tricky about it," Holgorsen said. "The ball goes off on their sideline and they've got a big cluster of people on the sideline and they sub, but it doesn't look like they sub. Then they snap it. It's against the rules and we'll talk to the officials about that prior to the game.
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DESPITE THE time spent together on the same staff and careers that have at least paralleled one another, Holgorsen said he and Briles don't have much in common on offense.
"We're pretty different," Holgorsen said. "You've got to remember, that was 2002 the last year we were together. That was 10 years ago. I have a hard time figuring out what I did 10 days ago. He's been at two different stops and he's evolved. I've been at three different stops and I've evolved.
"We haven't talked football in 10 years so I really don't know what he does. Just from watching it on film, there are some differences. If you study it, it's quite a bit different what I do now and what we did at Texas Tech."
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AMONG THE team's award winners for the week of practice leading up to the Maryland game was walk-on running back Maurice Zereoue. He's the young brother of former WVU running back Amos Zereoue.
"I just figured out who he was a week ago," Holgorsen said of the 5-foot-10, 190-pound Zereoue. "I understand the last name, but all I know is he got on the team by the walk-on tryouts and we stuck him on the scout team. Week one, he did a good job. Week two, we gave him a little more and he did a good job. Week three, we gave him scout team player of the week."