MORGANTOWN - Dustin Garrison swears his most valuable asset as a running back is not his quickness or his speed, his toughness or instincts.
"I think,'' he said without having to think very long, "my strength is my vision."
Still, not even he saw this coming.
Remember all the angst over West Virginia's lack of a running game to take the heat off of a lights-out passing attack? Scratch that, at least for the time being.
Garrison, the little freshman running back who had carried the ball just three times in the first three games before a mild breakout last week against LSU, had an explosion of nearly epic proportions. In fact, West Virginia's 55-10 trouncing of Bowling Green Saturday in the rain and cold of Mountaineer Field was made all the more amazing by Garrison's part in it.
He carried the ball 32 times for 291 yards. In a pass-first offense, he tied Kerry Marbury for the second-most rushing yards in a game in school history. Even more staggering is that his rushing total was just 15 yards shy of the 306 the Mountaineers had gained on the ground in their first four games combined.
Not bad for a guy who was making his first college start and was the third true freshman to fill the tailback spot in West Virginia's first five games. Oh, and doing it in an offense that in the first four games had attained 83 percent of its total offense through the air.
"I never thought about [gaining] 291 yards, but I knew I had to go out and have a great game,'' said Garrison, who during most of the previous four games had been the third option at his position behind Andrew Buie and Vernard Roberts. "I had something to prove, not only to myself, but to Coach [Dana] Holgorsen and [running backs] Coach [Robert] Gillespie.''
Consider it proven.
In leading No. 22 West Virginia (4-1) to its highest rushing total (360 yards) since 2008, Garrison did most of his damage during a first half in which the Mountaineers led 38-10 and at times seemed like something out of the Pat White-Steve Slaton era. The 5-foot-8, 175-pounder had 85 yards in the first quarter and 233 on 24 carries by halftime, which already would have been the sixth-best rushing day in school history.
Holgorsen, while no doubt surprised by the final numbers, refused to admit to being shocked by Garrison's performance, mainly because he'd seen it before.
"If you look at 16 games on his high school film last year, it's like that,'' 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.''
It's not as if Garrison didn't have any help. While Geno Smith didn't come close to the school-record passing numbers he had a week ago in a loss to No. 1 LSU, he still threw three touchdown passes and completed 18-of-30 passes for 238 yards.