West Virginia offense shows flexibility

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AUSTIN, Texas -- Who said West Virginia was one dimensional?

With running backs Shawne Alston back on campus because of an injury and Dustin Garrison still working his way back to full strength, sophomore replacement Andrew Buie knifed his way through the Texas defense Saturday night.

The unlikeliest of all of West Virginia's backs no longer, Buie proved the air raid is not the only way the Mountaineers can win football games.

"We knew we were going to have to carry the ball because those guys like to get after the quarterback," said quarterback Geno Smith. "They put a nickel package out there for the entire game, kept two linebackers in the box. We had to put an emphasis on running the ball. ... He carried us."

Buie rushed for 207 yards on 31 carries and two scores in a game that necessitated the run to alleviate the pressure aimed at Smith.

On Sunday morning the Mountaineers held down the No. 5 spot in the AP Top 25 poll, was the team to beat in their new conference and teetered on the edge of the national championship race.

"It's a real good confidence booster to come out and run the ball efficiently, especially for a team that can't run the ball, so to speak," said Buie.

Certainly the offense is known for an incredible passing proficiency.

But Texas pressured Smith like no team this season had, sacked him four times, and twice forced him into fumbles -- once a game-changing fumble in the end zone the Longhorns recovered for a touchdown.

Coach Dana Holgorsen said it became clear that if Smith had tried to keep dropping back in the pocket to pass he might have been sacked 20 times.

"We committed to the run and that was something we talked about earlier in the week," Holgorsen. "And there weren't any tricks either. We just lined up and ran it right at them."

Buie said he had no inkling he'd get 31 carries.

On the team's final eight-play touchdown drive, when West Virginia wanted to run the clock down, Buie had seven carries for 63 yards and a 5-yard touchdown run.

On his first touchdown in the second quarter he had six key rushes on the drive -- including gains of 23 and 14 yards -- ending with a 4-yard touchdown run that made it 21-7 with Tyler Bitancurt's extra point kick.

Buie turned praise back to his offensive line.

"They did all the hard work, opening up the creases. All I had to do was run and just trust it. That's all I had to do tonight," said Buie. "I always felt like as long as we continue to play on all three sides of the ball we have a pretty good chance of going all the way this year."

Texas defensive coordinator Manny Diaz said his game plan forced the Mountaineers to go to the run.

"We probably forced them to do that," he said. "You look over the course of the game and we got what we wanted. ... We turned them into a running football team, which was partly by design, but still there will be a lot of things that we look back at that we could have done better."


• Game: West Virginia at Texas Tech., 3:30 p.m. Saturday.



Jenn Menendez: jmenendez@post-gazette.com and Twitter @JennMenendez.


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