Orange Bowl: Loss of RB Dustin Garrison Is Huge Blow to West Virginia

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIJanuary 1, 2012

TAMPA, FL - DECEMBER 1:  Running back Dustin Garrison #29 of the West Virginia Mountaineers rushes for a game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter against the South Florida Bulls December 1, 2011 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.  West Virginia won 30 - 27. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

After already losing starting safety Terence Garvin to injury, the West Virginia Mountaineers find themselves victims of the injury bug yet again.  Starting running back Dustin Garrison will miss the Orange Bowl after spraining both his ACL and MCL during practice this past week.

In an already close matchup against Clemson, Garrison's loss is a huge blow to the Mountaineers.

Garrison may not have gaudy numbers, but he was an important part of the Mountaineer offense.  He ran for 742 yards on 136 carries, an average of 5.5 yards per carry.  He also had six rushing touchdowns.  In addition, he also caught 24 passes for 20 yards.

All of those statistics add up to a good portion of West Virginia's yards on the season.  It's difficult to replace a dual-threat running back.

The depth chart at running back is pretty thin for WVU.  Shawne Alston will most likely get the start, with Andrew Buie serving as his likely backup.  While Alston did rush for 339 yards and 10 touchdowns, he has not been consistently called upon to carry the load of the rushing attack.  Whether or not he can be successful when Clemson has had time to game plan for him is a huge question.

One of Garrison's most important functions was as a change of pace that prevented opponents from keying in on QB Geno Smith and the passing game.  Due to the fact that Garrison had such a solid yards per carry average, opponents had to respect that and divert part of their defensive strategy away from stopping the potent West Virginia passing game.

The success that Garrison had in the running game allowed the Mountaineers to produce an exceptionally potent passing attack.  Without the rushing portion of their offense intact, it will be difficult for the Mountaineers to replicate their passing success in the Orange Bowl.