MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - In the 10th game last season, West Virginia made an extremely significant change. Coach Dana Holgorsen moved Tavon Austin from inside receiver to running back and restructured the framework and the function of the offense.
That was an offense finished the season ranked No. 10 nationally in passing yards per game and just 52nd in rushing offense, but it was an offense capable of taking it's most productive player from the most important position, putting him in a position he hadn't played since high school and generating ways for him and his teammates to succeed.
Austin ran for 344 yards in his first game and then added 74 and 77 in the next two as the Mountaineers saved their season, won their final two games and made it to a bowl game.
WVU plays its 10th game this season at home Saturday against Texas (6-2, 5-0 Big 12) in search of something to salvage things and reach a bowl for a 12th straight season.
The 7 p.m. game will be televised by Fox, and though the Mountaineers (4-5, 2-4) might not reinvent the wheel route or move Charles Sims from running back to wide receiver, they have shown some ingenuity on offense lately and developed wrinkles they used last week to snap a three-game losing streak with a win at TCU.
"We're doing the same things with them, but we're just doing them better," offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Shannon Dawson said. "To me, the word 'development' means doing the same things with the kids over and over enough to where they get comfortable and make plays. The only way to develop kids and be consistent is to do the same things, to say the same things and have them and the quarterback continue to rep the same things the same way."
It was going to take time for the Mountaineers, who needed to replace three starting receivers, three starting offensive linemen, the top two running backs and the quarterback. They ushered in new players and then juggled lineups. WVU started three quarterbacks in the first five games, but Clint Trickett will make his sixth straight start against the Longhorns.
Three moves redesigned the offensive line after four games, but it's been the same for the past five. The Mountaineers start three receivers now. They use tight end Cody Clay quite a bit, only occasionally use a fourth receiver and rarely ever play with five now.
Last week, three running backs carried the ball and nine players caught a pass.
"I think there's just a lot more trust right now overall," Dawson said. "I'm talking about player to player, quarterback to offensive lineman, quarterback to receiver, running back to offensive lineman. Those guys are starting to trust that the other people are going to do the right thing. Once that happens, personally I don't think guys get caught up in trying to too much, which I think was part of the problem prior to that."
WVU's game plan changes from one week to the next and the coaches try to match up what they want to do with what they think the opposing defense will allow. The Mountaineers have relied on play-action passes lately and plays with misdirection, both things they believe Trickett can handle. Screen passes to running backs and receivers take advantage of a defense's aggression.