MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- There was a time, we must remember, when Shawne Alston was an afterthought in West Virginia's offense.
Make that West Virginia's passing offense.
This time was not this season, when the senior running back was slowed and sidelined for a string of games by a rather rowdy deep thigh bruise before returning with an attitude in last week's win against Iowa State with 130 yards and a touchdown.
Nor was it last season, when he was first limited by an offseason car accident that messed up his neck and then by the emergence of then freshman Dustin Garrison - the same Garrison who tore up his knee in a practice before the Orange Bowl and was ably replaced by Alston and his 77 yards and two scores.
No, it was the spring of 2011, when Dana Holgorsen arrived as the offensive coordinator with the fancy offense that spread the field, passed the ball and put quarterbacks and receivers on All-American and NFL teams.
So what was a running back to do, let alone a 6-foot, 235-pounder who wasn't known to run routes and catch passes, who couldn't fake out defenders in space, who hadn't run away from a cornerback in quite some time?
Alston stayed and starred and will leave a certain legacy on Mountaineer Field Saturday, his last home game and one against lowly Kansas (1-10, 0-9) at 2:30 p.m. on ROOT Sports. Where some may have left and others could have quit, Alston instead stayed and totally changed the way WVU thinks about the running back position in its version of the Air Raid offense.
"He's a guy that we didn't realize what he was until after we used him a little bit," running backs coach Robert Gillespie said. "We didn't know what a guy his size could do in this offense, but he's definitely opened our eyes as a staff to see a bigger guy can definitely help this offense."
In fairness to the coaches, they couldn't have been sure what to think.
Alston was misused by the previous staff as a freshman in 2009, when it was decided he wouldn't redshirt because he could help short-yardage woes that defined the 2008 team.
That turned into six carries and 19 yards in one blowout win at Syracuse.
A season later, he played in one game, a rout of UNLV, in the first eight games of the regular season. He surged in the final four with 214 yards, eight touchdowns and 48 carries before carrying just twice in the team's bowl loss.