West Virginia welcomed back both defensive end Taijh Alston and linebacker VanDarius Cowan against Iowa State after both had been out of the lineup due to injuries.

Both have had to overcome plenty to make it back on the field in their short time with the program and that work is a testament to the character of each.

Cowan missed four games last season due to a suspension and then appeared in only 56 defensive snaps across two games before sustaining a knee injury that cost him the remainder of the year. But Cowan hit the ground running in his rehab and was ahead of schedule heading into the summer.

After battling his way back to put himself in position to start the season healthy, Cowan was again hit with yet another knee injury two games into the season. That sidelined him for six games before finally returning to the field against the Cyclones for 22 snaps.

“He’s done a great job getting back, did some good things Saturday,” coordinator Jordan Lesley said.

The story with Alston is perhaps even more impressive.

The redshirt junior defensive end was slated as a big piece of the rotation last year before going down only 30 snaps into the season in the second game against Missouri. The former junior college prospect sustained a knee and patella injury, which was set to sideline him for the remainder of the season.

But after putting himself in position to return, Alston was dealt another unfortunate blow when he sustained another injury in a freak accident in June.

“That’s hard to come back from. It’s a long rehab,” heads coach Neal Brown said. “He was almost completely done with that and was almost released to start running and he had an Achilles injury.”

That set back Alston even further and kept him out of the first eight games of the year. The plan was always to find a way back onto the field before the end of the season, but that required plenty of work on his part to accomplish that. So that’s exactly what Alston did with a positive outlook at all times.

“Taijh has done unbelievable as far as how he has attacked his rehab,” Brown said.

That culminated in seeing 11 snaps against the Cyclones and while he was understandably rusty, it was an accomplishment to get back onto the field after a difficult road.

Junior linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedo has battled his own injury issue this season but was able to see firsthand how the two set an example by putting in the work to get back on the field.

“Both of them have fought through injuries. Both of them are considered leaders and have a lot of influence on the team,” he said.

Now, both are hoping to remain on the field moving forward.

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