Tavon Austin Is a Highlight Reel, First-Round PickLandry Jones passed for a school record 554 yards and six touchdowns to avoid a West Virginia upset, lifting Oklahoma to a 50-49 win. But receiver running back Tavon Austin and his performance against the No.12 Sooners on Saturday reached new heights, not only in terms of school and conference records, but also his draft stock.
image credit: Stephen Santilli/exponent-telegram.com
Austin continually ran circles around and sprinted past the Sooners defense, showing his versatility by playing primarily in an unfamiliar position.
With his offense failing to reach 100 yards rushing in each of the team’s previous three games, Coach Dana Holgorsen’s decision to move the dynamic Austin from his usual position of receiver to the backfield proved critical in keeping up with the Sooners offense. The senior burner took the duties charged upon him to heart, and, like Forrest Gump, he just kept on run-ning.
On a mere 21 carries, Austin ran for two scores and a school-record 344 yards, breaking Kay-Jay Harris’ previous mark of 337 set in 2004 against East Carolina while setting the third-highest single game total in Big 12 history.
Austin shattered the record for most individual rushing yards given up by an Oklahoma team, running for 109 yards more than Darren Sproles’ previous record against the Sooners. Thanks to Austin’s 16.4 yards per rush, the 9.7 West Virginia averaged as a team was also the most in Sooner history. The now-No.2? 8.95, set by another Mountaineer team in their 2008 Fiesta Bowl victory.
Austin also had four catches for 82 yards along with 146 yards in kickoff returns.
His 572 all-purpose yards completely obliterated the previous Big 12 record of 375, set by Texas’ Hodges Mitchell in 2000, and fell just six yards shy of the FBS record also set in 2000 by Utah State’s Emmett White. An astounding 395 of Austin’s total yardage came in the second half.
Down 31-17 to start the second half, Austin ripped off a 74-yard touchdown run on West Virginia’s opening drive then juked his way to a 4-yard score later in the quarter. Austin rushed for 157 yards in the third quarter alone, then added another 107 yards in the fourth, but to no avail as Landry Jones led Oklahoma to a game-winning fourth-down score with only 24 seconds left for the Mountaineers.
Austin’s ridiculous stat line and electrifying runs overshadowed teammate Stedman Bailey’s great performance. The junior wide receiver caught four touchdowns—three of which came in the fourth quarter—and added to his margin as the nation’s leader in touchdown receptions. Bailey finished with 13 catches for 205 yards.
Meanwhile, former Heisman frontrunner Geno Smith played admirably, particularly in the second half, becoming the first Oklahoma opponent to pass
image credit: ovathletics.com
for at least 300 yards this season. Yet he could not keep pace with Jones, receiver Kenny Stills—who also had four touchdown catches—and the rest of the Sooner offense. Smith finished 20 of 35 for 320 yards, four touchdowns, and two interceptions.
In what was supposed to be West Virginia’s marquee matchup in their inaugural Big 12 season, the Mountaineers disappointing 2012 campaign didn’t stop Austin from putting on a showcase for the scouts in attendance.
Did Austin assert himself as a legitimate first-round pick? Where and how would he be utilized on Sundays? Can his size withstand the rigors of NFL play?
The fact of the matter is that this kind of eye-popping performance really couldn’t have surprised anyone as Austin has been making defenders look silly with his incredible speed, agility, and change of direction ability all season. Compared to Austin, the 2013 draft class doesn’t have much to offer in the way of explosive playmakers.
Thanks in part to his breakout performance at running back, the label “gadget player” will be batted around. But the players who are drafted by teams that attempt to justify this moniker rarely materialize simply because gadget plays aren’t effective in the NFL ranks; the field space is too limited because the defenses are much faster.
A recent example is former Mountaineer and FBS record holder for most career rushing yards by a quarterback, Pat White, as the Dolphins made him their second-round pick in 2009 to lead the team’s Wildcat formations. To the sadness of Mountaineer Nation, Steelers cornerback Ike Taylor effectively ended White’s brief NFL career.
For all of his versatility, Austin has established himself as a receiver first and foremost. He is currently the top ranked wide receiver on nfldraftscout.com.
He has displayed great hands and route running ability over the course of his collegiate career, thus far racking up school records of 274 catches and 3,174 yards. Austin obviously won’t be relied upon as a physical, possession receiver. He does, however, have the talent to be a dynamic slot receiver in the right offense.
image credit: wvillustrated.com
Austin’s possibilities as a tailback and on special teams are only an incentive for teams on draft day. Four or five carries per game would be realistic. Of course any one of these carries could result in a highlight-reel play, but he doesn’t have the composite of a Ray Rice to be able to withstand a full load of carries and catch passes out of the backfield.
After starting 5-0 and climbing as high as No.5 in the polls, the Mountaineers have lost five straight. In one of the bigger falls from grace in recent memory—thanks in large part to a non-existent defense—West Virginia will be scraping the rest of the way just to earn a bowl bid. To become bowl eligible, the Mountaineers must win one of their last two games, at Iowa State this Saturday or against Kansas in the season finale in Morgantown.
If Austin finishes strong, he has a very real chance of hearing his name called by a playoff contender late in the first-round that’s looking to add an offensive weapon. Austin could become a more prolific Sproles or, if he adds some strength, similar to Percy Harvin.
BeyondU Sports - Best College Sports Blog Site