MORGANTOWN - His numbers would suggest that Noel Devine's senior season has been anything but a rousing success.
Oh, they're OK. Shoot, if the guy somehow manages to come up with 147 rushing yards on Saturday against Rutgers he will have his third straight 1,000-yard rushing season. A couple of weeks ago he passed Avon Cobourne at the top of the school's all-purpose yardage list.
Think about that for a minute. No one in West Virginia football history has held the ball in his hands while running further - 5,651 yards on runs, receptions and returns. No one. Ever. He's shattered the school's career record for passes caught by a running back. No one else is within 20 receptions of his record 93.
And with a little luck, after two more games he will have rushed for more yards than anyone in school history besides Cobourne. He's already third with 4,234 yards, ahead of guys like Steve Slaton and Amos Zereoue. He could catch Pat White with 246 more yards.
Still, as far as 2010 is concerned, this is not what Devine had in mind. As much as he tried to downplay it - and it was sincere - there had to be Heisman visions at least dancing around his head, if not right up in there. After rather surprisingly deciding to return for his senior season and going into it as part of an offense the potential of which seemed unlimited, this is not what he expected after 11 games:
The root cause of it all is simple to document. In the first three games of the season Devine averaged 24 carries and 118 yards. In the fourth game, on an out-of-bounds hit at LSU, he bruised the bone at the bottom of his foot behind the big toe. He's not been the same since.
And now he has an ankle problem on the other leg, the result of an injury two weeks ago at Louisville. By his own admission, his health right now is maybe 75 percent of normal.
But guess what? Noel Devine has still contributed mightily. He broke open that Louisville game with a 48-yard pass reception for a touchdown. He kick-started the West Virginia offense against Pitt last week with another 48-yard run with a pass to set up an easy score.
Playing on basically one leg he carried just three times against UNLV - the game following his first injury - but gained 84 yards and scored twice. He ran for just 29 yards against South Florida, but he was also the guy who made that hook-and-lateral thing with Jock Sanders work for the backbreaking touchdown.
Heck, even in losses to Syracuse and Connecticut he carried a combined 40 times and gained almost 200 yards, even though he had no initial burst because of the foot, the one thing that separates Devine from most other backs.