"He's significant to our offense," said Mountaineer offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "I'm not going to tell you he's not.
"I mean, we can't have one guy go down and slow down. But to tell you he's not important to our offense is wrong."
Gillespie, by the way, said Alston "hopefully will bounce back and play next week." He said Garrison is "85-90 percent" back from a knee injury.
When Baylor hits Touchdown City, though, the Mountaineers need Alston. Sure, they need the Mountaineer defense to tighten the screws. Truth be told, though, it did Saturday.
Heading into the game, West Virginia was ranked No. 84 in total defense, allowing an average of 430 yards. Against Maryland, a step up in competition, the Mountaineers allowed 351. They had a 51-yard Doug Rigg fumble return for a score.
WVU actually caused five fumbles, though it recovered just two. It added an interception, although Wes Tonkery would have served his team better by batting the fourth-down heave down.
The Mountaineers, however, won't be a great defensive football team this season. They simply don't have the talent. What it can be is a great offensive team. What it will hang its hat on is offense. Smith. Austin. Bailey. And, yes, Alston.
Against Baylor or Texas or most Big 12 teams, the Mountaineers will have to outscore their opponents. And they cannot have one rushing yard after three quarters, as they did Saturday against the Terrapins.
The offensive line needs to improve. Too, Alston must return - so the team isn't one-dimensional.
"We want to run the ball better," Dawson said. "We didn't today."
The puzzle was certainly missing a piece.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.