By Bob Hertzel
Times West Virginian
It was one of life’s moments for Andrew Buie, an ESPN “SportsCenter” blooper in the midst of a game filled with “Plays of the Week,” and it seemed appropriate to bring up because it had both time, 72 hours, and distance, 207 rushing yards against Texas, between the then and the now.
Buie was in the midst of authoring one of the great running games in West Virginia University history, facing one of college football’s most storied teams in the University of Texas and running for those 207 yards on 31 carries against them.
But in the Dana Holgorsen scheme of things, you must play the aerial portion of the game, too, even if you are piling up yard after yard on carry after carry.
So it was on this one particular play the sophomore of Jacksonville, Fla.’s Trinity Christian Academy found himself all alone at the Texas 30 as Geno Smith’s perfect spiral descended into his hands.
At this moment we will turn over what transpired to young Mr. Buie.
“What a lot of people don’t know is that’s actually one of the hardest balls to catch when you’re buck-naked wide open in the middle of the field by yourself with 101,000 people watching,” Buie began. “I thought I was going to walk (into the end zone). When I saw I was open I knew he was going to throw me the ball, I saw the threads spinning, and I’m saying to myself, ‘Catch the ball! Catch the ball! Catch the ball!’”
And catch it he did.
“Then I tripped and fell and it’s like (you are thinking) nobody tackled me,” he said, laughing back at the thought.
Indeed, after catching the pass he lost his balance.
“When I caught that ball I think my feet were off the ground and I got top heavy. When I was bringing the ball in I couldn’t get my balance. The instinct was to tuck and roll to stop myself from falling on my face,” he said.
The tuck and roll looked almost like one of those victory flips into the end zone ... only he was at the 20.
“Of course, you have to make plays in open space like that. Maybe next time I’ll be able to stay on my feet,” Buie said.
In a way, the comical aspect of Buie’s evening in Austin helps put a human face on this engaging young player who has gone through some trying times to become what now must be considered the No. 1 running back on the No. 4/5 team in America.
And while the reputation of this team is as a passing outfit filled with finesse, he actually was given the ball more often against Texas than were Tavon Austin and Stedman Bailey combined as the Mountaineers ran more plays than they threw the ball.
What’s more, even though the book says that Buie is just 5-feet, 9-inches tall and 188 pounds, he runs as if he were a big man.
“He’s got good speed, and he runs like a 230 pounder,” Texas Tech coach Tommy Tuberville said. “He breaks a lot of tackles.”
As often as he absorbs a blow, he delivers one, and that makes for something of a potential problem.
“The concern is the wear and tear. As I’ve mentioned a hundred times, 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,” Holgorsen said.
“He carried it 31 times, and he got hit 31 times. He blocks, which is hard, and he runs routes, which is taxing. The wear and tear is something to be concerned with, which is why we need to get Dustin (Garrison) healthy and Shawne (Alston) healthy.”
Buie admits he was aching some on the flight home Saturday night, although he did manage to sleep most of the way, but says he’s prepared for whatever the running back wear and tear is.
“At practice is repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition, repetition. I mean, you only play so many snaps on offense per game. It’s not as many snaps as you take in practice. After a while, taking so many snaps in practice, you start to build endurance,” he said.
“Then, when your number is called and you have to be in there play after play after play and you stay on the field, your body is used to it.”
The surroundings at the Texas game were a bit overwhelming, considering that Buie played at a small, small Florida high school just two years ago and found himself out there performing before 101,851 fans and a national television audience.
“I love it,” he said. “When you are on that field you really don’t hear the crowd anymore. You are locked in on what your job is that play, what your assignment is on that play. I mean, the crowd is a factor, but once that ball is snapped, the crowd factor is 150 percent gone. Then it’s mano-y-mano, who’s going to win, who’s going to do their job and who wants it done the baddest.”
Email Bob Hertzel at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @bhertzel.