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The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

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Cobourne heads Mountaineer attack

At a mere 5 feet 9, 190 pounds and with a head full of braids, West Virginia tailback Avon Cobourne does not look to have much in common with former Badger running back Ron Dayne. But the two backs grew up in towns next to Camden, N.J., just outside Philadelphia. Dayne was a native of Berlin, while Cobourne grew up only 12 miles up Route 73 in Cherry Hill, N.J.

“As a freshman [in high school] I played at Cherry Hill West, and we played Dayne’s team,” Cobourne explains, talking on a cell phone as he walks off the practice field. “I was injured for that game and watched from the sidelines . . . I had no idea that he was going to be as successful as he was.”

But you might also find these two running backs connected in the NCAA record books. Cobourne is on track to become only the fifth running back in NCAA history to run for at least 1000 yards in four straight seasons, and the first back to have played in the Big East Athletic Conference to accomplish such a feat. Ron Dayne was the fourth player to reach the list.

Cobourne is also narrowing in on many of West Virginia’s all-time rushing marks. With 106 yards rushing along with two recorded touchdowns last week against Chattanooga, Cobourne is only 532 yards away from surpassing Amos Zereoue as the school’s all-time leading rusher. The tailback is also only three 100-yard games away from recording 21 in his career, good enough to surpass Zereoue again for both a Mountaineer and Big East record.

For Cobourne, these records are pretty astounding, especially considering he thought of transferring during his freshman season. Coming out of high school with a bad knee, which prevented him from playing his senior season of high school ball, Cobourne initially didn’t get too many repetitions. With the lack of looks he was getting, Cobourne thought of transferring. But suddenly those reps came to practice, and Cobourne ended up leading the Big East in rushing as a freshman, averaging 114 yards per game, for a West Virginia freshman record.

Nevertheless, Cobourne is not too concerned in meeting or surpassing records. In fact, the back could care less.

“My focus is on winning games, and that’s what I’m all about,” stated Cobourne.

Unfortunately for the Mountaineers, victories were hard to come by last season in Morgantown. Finishing with a paltry 3-8 record, including a loss to Temple, and only one conference win versus Rutgers, Cobourne was the only bright spot in the West Virginia offense last season.

Being the go-to guy for the Mountaineers took its toll on Cobourne, who was relied on to bear the load last season and carried the ball more than 30 times in some games. This season, with the addition of sophomore quarterback Rasheed Marshall into the offense, Cobourne will be relied on less to carry the ball. He expects increased production in catching passes out of the backfield.

“I’m really looking forward to more work catching passes,” Cobourne said. “[Rasheed Marshall] takes a lot of the pressure off of me, and I take the pressure off of him. It creates a more balanced attack for us.”

And don’t look for the Mountaineers to continue their losing ways. The team has 14 returning starters coupled with a bit of history on its side: West Virginia hasn’t experienced consecutive losing seasons since 1976-79. In fact, the team has rebounded from losing seasons three of the last four times to qualify for a bowl the following season.

As the Mountaineers have had their ups and downs and switched head coaches, Avon Cobourne has been the steady rock of this team.

A vocal leader on the team, as well as a genuine model of consistency, Cobourne is the feature back a team needs to compete day in and day out. Described by University of Wisconsin head coach Barry Alvarez as a “home-run hitter” with the moves to make you miss and the speed to outrun, the Badgers must keep the almost overly consistent Cobourne in check if they want to win this Saturday.

While he will not focus on breaking records, he will be focused on winning.

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