MIAMI GARDENS, Fla. -- Tavon Austin needed 63 all-purpose yards in Wednesday night's Orange Bowl against Clemson to finish the season leading major college football in that category.
The West Virginia receiver got there before the first quarter was over.
Austin, a 5-foot-9, 175-pound junior from Baltimore, started the game with 1,089 yards in punt and kickoff returns, 1,063 receiving yards and 142 rushing yards.
His 2,294 yards already broke former running back Steve Slaton's school record of 2,104 set in 2006, and trailed only New Mexico State's Taveon Rogers, who had 2,356 in the 2011 regular season.
Austin gained 80 all-purpose yards in the opening period, passing Rogers with a 36-yard kick return before he finished that drive with an 8-yard, pylon-touching touchdown reception to tie the game 14-14.
"In the beginning of the season, I never really looked at it," Austin said.
"I really don't pay attention to the stats, but my family always kept me posted, let me know I was in the top five, top three. They let me know I was so many yards away."
Austin did take a look before the start of the season at WVU's single-season records for receptions and receiving yards. He set the school record this season with 89 receptions in the regular season - 12 more than the record shared by Shawn Foreman and David Saunders.
He is second in school history to only teammate Stedman Bailey in receiving yards. Bailey broke Saunders' record (1,043) and had 1,197 yards in the regular season. Austin had 1,063.
"I only transferred over to receiver last year," Austin said. "I carried the ball my whole life and I was used to people handing it to me instead of throwing it to me. The number of receptions is most surprising to me."
Austin said he thought about entering the NFL Draft or to at least explore the possibility of skipping his senior season, but has decided he will simply return to school.
Quarterback Geno Smith said previously he has decided to do the same. Austin's position coach, Daron Roberts, said Austin will "be in the 99th percentile of players in the entire country."
"It's best for me to come back for one more year with the rest of the guys to compete for the national championship," Austin said.
* * *
AS EXPECTED, West Virginia defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel declined to address speculation on his future, and whether he would remain with the program where he has worked for 11 seasons.
There have been reports that Casteel, a Paden City native, might be headed to join his former boss, Coach Rich Rodriguez, at Arizona.
"You know what, I really don't want to get into all that," Casteel said in a noisy WVU locker room after the 70-33 bowl victory. "We should enjoy the win and worry about all those things as we keep going.
"The kids, really, for them to be able to stay focused over the course of a month and a half and coming down to Miami and doing what they did, it's pretty impressive. There's also the 10 wins. I don't know how many West Virginia teams have done that, but not a great deal. It's a big accomplishment for these kids."
* * *
WEST VIRGINIA'S 2011 football season has just ended. The Mountaineers don't yet know which conference they'll call home next season, but one source predicts they'll again be a top 25 team.
One of the more popular college football websites, NationalChamps.net, is out with its 2012 "early bird" preview it produces annually.
NationalChamps early bird polls usually are far better prognosticators than, say, Punxsutawney Phil. From 2004-11, in eight polls, the early bird averaged 8.4 out of 10 teams in the preseason AP poll, which is revealed the next August.
WVU is No. 21 in the site's 2012 top 40. And to display how conference affiliation might have an impact on the program, the early bird poll gives an indication.
At No. 21, West Virginia would be the top Big East team, if the Mountaineers remain in the conference for another season. Rutgers is next, at No. 29.
However, if WVU moves immediately to the Big 12, the Mountaineers rank only fifth, following Oklahoma (8), Oklahoma State (10), Kansas State (13) and TCU (16).
The early bird poll had Baylor as the top Big 12 team at No. 7 , but that was before Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Robert Griffin III announced for the NFL Draft. NationalChamps put a condition on the Bears' ranking, saying without Griffin, they might not even be in the top 25.
* * *
SOME PEELS from the Orange Bowl ...
No. 23 West Virginia is the lowest AP-ranked team to appear in an Orange Bowl since New Year's Day 1967, when unranked Florida downed Georgia Tech.
There's a catch there. The AP poll goes 25 teams deep these days. In the 1966 season, the AP ranked only 10 teams.
Florida was 8-2 entering the bowl and had just fallen from the top 10 to end the regular season. So, those Gators would have ranked higher than the 2011 Mountaineers.