West Virginia running back Andrew Buie can’t wait to get more work.
Thrust into the starting lineup due to injuries, the sophomore has infused some critically needed balance into the Mountaineers’ offense over the last two games.
He ran for a career-high 207 yards and scored twice in Saturday’s 48-45 win at No. 15 Texas. In one game he eclipsed his yardage total for all of last season. A week earlier he had 82 yards against Baylor.
Buie said he’ll be ready to handle the load again when No. 5 West Virginia (5-0, 2-0 Big 12) plays at Texas Tech (4-1, 1-1) on Saturday.
“I’m going to try to play like that every week,” said Buie, who credited his success to his blockers. “If the opportunities are there I just want to make the most of them and play ball. I’ll take it as long as they’re giving it to me.”
Buie also caught three passes for 66 yards against Texas, giving Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville more to worry about in terms of slowing down the high-scoring Mountaineers.
“He breaks a lot of tackles. He’s got a good burst of speed,” Tuberville said. “They’ve got a good counter punch in terms of running delays and draws and those type of things with him, and also have good screens with him.”
So far, Buie has proven he can do handle the task that coach Dana Holgorsen had hoped could be spread among several backs.
Shawne Alston had 123 yards in the season opener against Marshall, hurt his right thigh the following game against James Madison and hasn’t had a carry since.
Dustin Garrison underwent offseason knee surgery after being injured in practice leading up to January’s Orange Bowl. The coaching staff has brought him along slowly. He’s played in three games and has eight carries for 42 yards.
“You have to be ready at any moment when your name is called,” Buie said.
Buie had 31 carries against Texas and 25 against Baylor. That’s the most in a two-game stretch for any West Virginia back since Garrison had 50 total carries against Bowling Green and Connecticut early in the 2011 season.
Alston didn’t make the trip to Texas and underwent treatment on the thigh from Friday through Tuesday. Holgorsen wouldn’t say what his status would be against Texas Tech, but the coach wants to get Alston and Garrison back to full health as soon as possible so Buie doesn’t get too fatigued.
“The concern is the wear and tear,” Holgorsen said. “The wear and tear is a little different on running backs than quarterback or a receiver or a corner or a safety that doesn’t take that (hit) every time. He carried it 31 times, and he got hit 31 times. He blocks, which is hard, and he runs routes, which is taxing.”
The 5-foot-9, 187-pound Buie was the starter entering the 2011 season but was injured twice over the first three games. He also had fumble issues and wasn’t much of a factor the rest of the season while Garrison got most of the work.
In the offseason, Buie set out on a goal to build his strength and durability.
“I feel like I’m in a way better situation now physically than I was last year at this point,” he said. “From this year to last year it’s definitely like a 10-pound difference in my weight. My strength increased tremendously, and I think it shows now that I’m more physically equipped to play this year.”
Quarterback Geno Smith has noticed the change in Buie.
“He’s older and has got a lot of reps this year,” Smith said. “We all go through those stages where the games are kind of too fast for us and we’ve got to get adjusted to the speed, but he’s done that. He’s doing a great job right now.”
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