Both Alston and Buie have had injury absences this season. Alston missed the first two games while still recovering from a neck injury he suffered at the end of last season in a car accident. His best game was a 14-carry, 110-yard performance in a snowstorm at Rutgers.
Buie and the now-departed Vernard Roberts each started two of the team's first four games before Garrison got the call in the fifth game and exploded for 291 yards, the best rushing performance in college football this season. Buie missed that game and the one the week before against LSU because of a shoulder injury, and by the time he returned Garrison had established himself. Buie carried just 12 times the rest of the season after gaining 88 yards on 26 carries before he was hurt.
But Buie maintains he never lost his preparedness.
"[Running backs] Coach [Robert] Gillespie has always done a pretty good job of getting all of us reps in practice so if something like that happens, we'll be ready,'' Buie said Sunday. "I tried to stay as prepared as I could all season. It's not like I'm just being thrown in there.''
Buie also had a minor fumbling issue early in the season. In fact, he dropped the ball on a nice carry he made at Maryland that ended when he was blasted by a tackler and was injured. But Holgorsen doesn't seem overly concerned about ball security.
"Dustin put it on the ground once or twice, too,'' Holgorsen said. "That's been something that we've focused on all week, and it looks to me like he's doing a good job of that.
"But again, Shawne is the starter. Shawne is mature and Shawne's done a good job throughout the course of the year on not only ball security, but moving the ball forward. So we'll go with him and give it to him a bunch and then I look for Buie to come in and do some good things in there as well.''
All in all, Garrison's explosiveness and quickness will be missed, but the fact of the matter is the Mountaineers gain far more yardage throwing the ball (4,102 yards this season) than running it (1,413). And those who will replace Garrison are not untested.
"Shawne Alston gives us a lot of maturity, as he has all year, and Andrew Buie is as healthy as he's been since probably camp,'' Holgorsen said. "We'll start Shawne because he's been playing all year and he's done a good job. And Buie's a guy who played a lot early and has been hurt. Between the two, we can do everything that we want to do.''
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com.