Skip ahead two seasons to the cusp of perhaps another Car Care Bowl. WVU is surging late once again.
"I like what we're doing with the two big backs," Stewart said. "I really do. I like what I'm seeing with Shawne. I like what I'm seeing with Ryan Clarke. I really like Matt Lindamood to come in and play fullback as well. What I saw Friday was the fact Pitt had trouble toward the end of the third quarter and almost all of the fourth tackling those guys, those big, 200 plus-pound men."
Alston had 16 carries for 71 yards against Pitt and has 177 yards in the past three games. Clarke only ran six times against the Panthers, but averaged nearly 5 yards and scored twice. He's gained 79 yards and maintained his average through 16 carries the past three games. Smith ran the ball six times for 18 yards and caught Pitt for one 11-yard gain. That followed seven runs against Louisville.
A trend that started a month ago peaked against the Panthers - and not just with the run.
"We mixed it a little bit, which is good," offensive line coach Dave Johnson said. "We loaded up a couple times and went into a couple series saying, 'Hey, we're going to come off the ball and run the zone and do some other things. 'It worked out.
"Now the defensive linemen, when they come of the ball and we can fit them in our play-action, we're a little more aggressive in our pass protection. That keeps them on their heels. Then when you do have to throw the ball in a drop-back situation, it helps you. It takes some of the zip of their feet."
Smith needed only nine completions to get 212 yards and three touchdowns. Given his skill and development at the position the pass will remain a key in the offense in the future. That attack is enabled again by the running game.
The emergence of Alston and Clarke serves to address the graduation of Devine, but also to finalize Tavon Austin's future at receiver.
"He's too valuable out there," Stewart said.
Austin averages 7.6 yards per rush and 13.5 yards per catch. Only Devine (104) and Sanders (84.3) have more yards per game than Austin (83.9). Austin is starting to figure things out as a converted running back and has pushed to stay at receiver.
Why not? He scores once every nine times he touches the ball and has the potential to be even more explosive in an offense that has lacked that element.
"They can't catch him when we get him in motion and he gets that seam," Stewart said. "That's the stuff we need to do with him. We need a big back and we're starting to get that. That's how I cut my teeth years ago - unless you have a Patrick White kind of quarterback who can run and run. Geno's not that guy. He's a passer and more of a decision-maker. The bigger backs, I'm starting to like more and more, so we'll keep Tavon where he is."
Contact sportswriter Mike Casazza at mi...@dailymail.com or 304-319-1142. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/wvu.