The 5-foot-11, 236-pound Alston was simply astonishing right from the start against Marshall. He gained 10 yards on his first carry, ran over defenders for nine yards on his second, had a 14-yard gain on a first-and-15 play for his fourth carry and still in the first quarter ran a power play behind Clarke for 12 yards. He had touchdowns of 3 and 21 yards, and probably his only bad play was a fumble at the end of a 7-yard run near the end of the first half. But Jordan Thompson recovered it for WVU, so no damage was done.
Oh, and he came out of the game the same way he went in - healthy.
"You always worry about that,'' Gillespie said. "I worry about it, sure, but the kids don't. ... But he came out of the game healthy. A lot of that is because of the way we practice. We practice so physical that the games are a little bit easy right now.''
The performance of both Alston and Andrew Buie (80 yards rushing, plus four pass receptions for 31 yards), though, was not enough to allay concerns about one area of West Virginia's running game - depth. It would be easy to look at the first-game performance (331 rushing yards, the second-most in the past four years for WVU) and assume that it might allow Gillespie and the coaches to feel better about perhaps redshirting Garrison. Last year's leading rusher didn't play against Marshall and there remains the possibility he might be held out this season.
Gillespie said no, the first-game performance of Alston and Buie will have no effect on any decision regarding Garrison, who may or may not play when the Mountaineers face James Madison Saturday in Landover, Md.
"We're still going to let him rest as long as he needs to rest,'' Gillespie said. "Obviously, the off week will help and as soon as he's ready to go, we're going to put him out there and put him in some plays and see what he can do.
"We want Dustin back. He brings a lot of energy to the group. And the more we have, the better we are.''
Right now, though, West Virginia has just two running backs. Freshman D'Vontis Arnold did not play, but don't count him out. And Clarke, the fullback who scored 16 touchdowns as a freshman and sophomore but did not carry the ball as a junior, could soon rejoin the mix.
"Ryan Clarke is a guy I would want to get touches before D'Vontis,'' said Gillespie, who wanted Clarke to carry the ball against Marshall but the opportunity just didn't present itself. "He's a guy I think we'll probably have to lean on at some time during the year. '
Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickm...@aol.com or follow him at twitter.com/dphickman1.