AMES, Iowa -- Shawne Alston was a significant factor for West Virginia Friday for the first time since Sept. 15, when he sustained a deep thigh bruise.
The team's bruising running back rushed for a career-high 130 yards in a 31-24 victory win against Iowa State that snapped a five-game losing skid and made the Mountaineers bowl-eligible.
"They finally allowed me to take my brace off since my injury," Alston said. "They let me take it off, and I was feeling a whole lot better. [Friday] was a day to go out here and show what I can do."
Alston was made more effective by the threat of speedy receiver-turned-sometimes-running-back Tavon Austin.
The Cyclones held Austin in check out of the backfield part of the time, but Alston managed 19 carries for 130 yards, ripping off runs of 10 yards, 13, 15, 19, 21 yards and breaking tackles along the way.
"I think there were a couple times in there where Tavon was sort of like a decoy," Alston said. "I think that froze the defense a little bit.
"With the job the offensive line was doing in the trenches, it was only right that I had a good day."
Quarterback Geno Smith said he relied on Alston for tough yards on the ground, but also for his leadership and blocking ability.
"It seems like he's always coming back right on time," Smith said.
"Especially in these cold-weather games, when people really don't like to hit. He's the one out there, he's a bruiser. That's what he likes to do. We appreciate having him back."
Alston returned Nov. 3 against TCU, but was held to 16 yards on seven carries, got one carry at Oklahoma State, and did not play against Oklahoma. His well-documented thigh bruise was deep and painful and limited his mobility.
The training staff allowed Alston to take off the brace Sunday, and he had a strong week of practice before the Iowa State game.
"His week leading up to the game was a lot better than it's been," coach Dana Holgorsen said.
"Obviously, I didn't want to put that out there in the media or anything because it would've given them something more to prepare for. Last week's game wasn't his type of game.
"With him back there, he makes us better. He's got to be healthy in order for that to be the case."
Offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson said Alston had so much success early, there was no reason to go away from him.
"I think it was a combination of [the threat of Austin] and what they were doing defensively, too," Dawson said.
"If you're having success, there's really no reason to go against it.
"With a healthy Shawne, he makes a big difference. We were just trying to find things that worked and keep doing it."
Austin, meanwhile rushed for 74 yards on 14 carries, including a long run of 17 yards.mobilehome - wvusports
First Published November 25, 2012 5:00 AM