Through the first four weeks of the season, Garrison was splitting time in the backfield with no less than three other running backs -- Shawne Alston, Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts.
But Garrison didn’t have such issues on Saturday, getting 32 carries while Alston, who received the second-largest portion of the workload, only had eight. That allowed Garrison the opportunity to get a different feel for the game, a factor Holgorsen acknowledged could be part of the true freshman’s success.
“You know, it’s hard, when you have so many guys, to be able to get a guy into a rhythm,” the first-year Mountaineer coach said during his portion of the Big East Conference coaches’ teleconference Monday.
“You know, but there’s nothing you can do about that. You’ve just got to tell those guys to take advantage of the opportunities that they have. And the last six quarters, Dustin has been able to get in there and get on a roll. The more we’ve gave it to him, the more he’s played, the better he’s got.”
That culminated in Garrison’s breakout performance against the Falcons. He gained 291 yards and scored two touchdowns on those 32 carries, good enough to tie for the second-biggest individual rushing performance in WVU history.
Review of the film from that game only confirmed what Holgorsen already believed to be true about the 5-foot-8, 165 pound back from Pearland, Texas.
“Played well. Played hard. Made a lot of guys miss,” Holgorsen said, succinctly summing up Garrison’s outing.
STEADY AS HE GOES:
The achievement was overshadowed by Garrison’s breakout performance against Bowling Green, but WVU wide receiver Stedman Bailey made a bit of history of his own against the Falcons.
Bailey, a redshirt sophomore, caught four passes for 112 yards. It was his third-consecutive game topping the century mark -- the first time that has ever been done in school history. Before this season, even back-to-back games in which the same Mountaineer player topped 100 yards receiving had only been seen nine times in program history.
Holgorsen credited Bailey for his ability to make plays happen no matter what tactics or players opposing defenses throw at him.
“Just consistency. He’s competitive. It doesn’t matter who the guy is who’s covering him or in front of him or what they’re doing. He’s going to find a way to make it work,” the head coach said of Bailey. “He’s very sure-handed.”
The coach added that the West Virginia offense is likely further along in its progression within the his system than it would have been without the chemistry that existed between Smith, Bailey and other receivers before Holgorsen ever arrived at WVU.
“Him and Geno are on the same page, due to the fact they’ve been throwing and catching together for a long time,” the coach noted. “He’s taken the opportunity he’s had this year and he’s made the most of it.
“At the college level, due to the fact you have new faces and new bodies and guys who haven’t played together for awhile, it usually takes a couple years, 2-3 years in the same system with the same people to get guys on the same page like that. Due to the fact those guys have been doing it for a long time -- and you can throw Ivan McCartney and Tavon Austin as well, just because he’s been here with Geno for three here years now -- those guys are having some success that we probably wouldn’t be having with right now if they didn’t have that familiarity with where they’re at at all times.”
NO MOTIVATION NEEDED:
Holgorsen said he and his West Virginia assistants had to “jump-start” players in practice early last week, as the emotion simply wasn’t there in the wake of a 26-point loss to now-No. 1 LSU the Saturday before.
He doesn’t expect to encounter such issues this week, as Big East play begins for WVU with a game against UConn, the defending league champion that earned its first-ever win over the Mountaineers in a 16-13 overtime decision in East Hartford last season.
Holgorsen was still the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma State when that occurred, and he has said in the past that he would avoid watching film of the Mountaineers of last year, simply because the offensive scheme he installed is so different from what WVU did under its previous coaching staff.
But he made an exception by Sunday, popping in tape of the 2010 loss to the Huskies.
“Two of my hours yesterday was spent watching the game last year, not from a schematic standpoint but from how their players stack up against our players,” Holgorsen explained.
“The first half of the season is over. It’s all about Big East play and facing UConn, which, you know, was able to knock off West Virginia last year en route to being able to go to the BCS, which is going to provide a lot of motivation for our guys this week.”