MORGANTOWN - Not a day goes by when Bruce Irvin doesn't needle Shawne Alston about his speed, or, more precisely, his lack of it.
Alston really can't do much about it. He's a realist, and realists understand their limitations.
"I am who I am,'' West Virginia's junior running back said this week. "I don't have too much speed so I can't really get around the corner. So I just use what I have.''
Imagine the surprise then - the total shock, really - when in a game in the snow at Rutgers last weekend Alston turned the corner and left everyone in his wake. Fifty-two yards and a trail of slush that looked like it came from a truck without mud flaps later, the 5-foot-11, 220-pounder was in the end zone at the end of his longest run ever as a Mountaineer.
A chance at a little payback, right? An opportunity to gloat to Irvin and anyone else who had ever doubted Alston's ability to motor?
Not a chance.
"They just said it was the longest 50-yard run they'd ever seen,'' Alston said. "Tavon [Austin], Coach [Robert] Gillespie, Ryan Clarke, Bruce, everybody.''
Ryan Clarke? Even Ryan Clarke was still joking about Alston's lack of speed?
"I thought I was moving, personally,'' Alston said. "I was moving.''
So what if Austin probably completed his own 80-yard touchdown run at Rutgers a few series later in less time than Alston jaunted 52 yards.
"Yeah, he probably did,'' Alston said. "But I was in the snow. He was in that nice green part [of the field that had been plowed].''
Speed or no speed, though, Alston's performance in Saturday's 41-31 win at Rutgers might have been the next step in his continuing integration into West Virginia's offense. After missing the first two games of the season while still recovering from a neck injury suffered in a winter car accident, Alston has become the go-to big back as the Mountaineers continue to work more running into their offense.
He would finish the Rutgers game with a career-high 110 yards on just 14 carries.
"Shawne is getting there. We've been getting him touches,'' coach Dana Holgorsen said. "He's been getting healthier to where it makes it easier to have another guy who can play a lot of different positions. He can be the main back or the fullback/lead back guy because he's a physical guy. Having guys like him who can play more than one position is definitely a good thing. We'll keep getting him the ball as long as when he runs it and he keeps going forward.''
His next opportunity comes Saturday when No. 24 West Virginia (6-2, 2-1 Big East) plays Louisville (4-4, 2-1) at Mountaineer Field. Barring a freak of nature, though, this one won't be in a snowstorm. Saturday's forecast calls for sunshine and temperatures in the 50s.