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Elliott: Garrison Runs Into Spotlight

WVU running back goes for 291 yards and three TDs

October 2, 2011
By JIM ELLIOTT - Staff Writer ( , The Intelligencer / Wheeling News-Register

MORGANTOWN - The Man of the Hour stood at a podium in front of a media throng that was four-five deep.

Everyone, it seemed, wanted to know what Dustin Garrison had to say after he broke the shackles off a slow start to his college career by rushing for 291 yards and three touchdowns on 32 carries as the Mountaineers throttled Bowling Green, 55-10, on Saturday.

''I've never really felt like this," he said of his following, ''but I like it.''

This was a team that struggled to get to 300 rushing through four games suddenly springing free a rookie running back that was threatening the number himself.

The reason he didn't get there had nothing to do with a young Falcons defense that yielded 643 total yards to the Mountaineers.

''Toward the end, they told me I was at 291,'' Garrison said. ''Coach (Robert) Gillespie told me to get out. I was like, 'you won't let me to get 9 more yards?' He was like, 'no, get to the sidelines.' ''

He'll try again next week. As it was, he became the first player all season to rush for 100 yards for West Virginia and his total was a freshman record and tied Kerry Marbury for the second-best, single-game total in school history. Kay-Jay Harris owns that record at 337 against East Carolina in 2004.

''I tell those guys every Saturday you get a chance to become a legend,'' Gillespie said. ''(Saturday) was the first step in him showing he can make plays in this offense, and hopefully he'll continue to do that.''

It turned out to be a banner day for the entire WVU rushing attack, as it produced 360 yards on 46 carries with four touchdowns.

Shawne Alston added 50 yards on eight carries with a pair of touchdowns.

''(Saturday) was huge,'' Gillespie said. ''Huge for (Garrison's) confidence, but not only his confidence but huge up front for the offensive line and the fullbacks, and also for the coaching staff to know that we can give those guys the ball and they can bail us out.''

The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Garrison, who entered the game with 65 career rushing yards on 13 carries, had six rushes of 10 or more yards, including a 42-yarder in the second quarter that he followed up five plays later with a 19-yard touchdown run, his first of the game. He added runs of 16 and 17 yards in his first career start, and 10 of his rushes produced first downs for the West Virginia, which piled up season-high 30 of those.

Garrison, who hails from Pearland, Texas, routinely enjoyed games like this in his prep days.

''If you look at 16 games on his high school film last year, it's like that,'' head coach Dana Holgorsen said. ''He's used to 200-yard games. The more you give it to him and the more he plays, the better he gets.''

Garrison, whose career high had been 46 yards, had 24 carries, 233 yards (a school record), and one of the touchdowns before halftime.

He looked like he did in his prep days.

''It definitely does (have that feeling),'' Garrison said. ''It's a bigger stage. The game's a lot faster and the players are a lot stronger. So it's a great feeling to know that I can still put up the numbers in college as I did in high school.

''The game has slowed down a lot since Day 1. I feel like it's showing. I'm seeing the holes a lot faster and I'm hitting them a lot faster. Cutting off blocks and running defenders into the blocks, it reminds me of somewhat of high school.''

He helped the Mountaineers, who've struggled mightily in the rushing department all season, finish off quite a reversal. They had 306 yards on 116 carries through four games. They had 303 through the first three quarters in this one.

''The holes were there,'' Garrison said. ''The linemen were doing their job making the holes. Most of the yards I got were cutting off the blocks they made. They did a good job and that's all it takes.''

The last time a WVU rusher had a 200-yard game was Noel Devine against Colorado in 2009. He had 220.

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