Fifth Year Seniors Last Link to WVU's Worst Brawl Memory - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Fifth Year Seniors Last Link to WVU's Worst Brawl Memory

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MORGANTOWN -

Before West Virginia plays Pittsburgh Friday night, 23 Mountaineer seniors will be honored for their final game in Morgantown. Of those, 11 are finishing their fifth season at WVU and so much of their time has been shaped by the rivalry that awaits.

Four years ago, they stood on the sideline watching as their teammates failed to win the 100th Backyard Brawl. It could have resulted in a national championship berth. Instead, it was… If you're a WVU fan reading this, you know what it was.

It pushed former head coach Rich Rodriguez to pursue three different jobs in the years since and it tipped over a domino that has impacted numerous programs in wake.

But for these 11 seniors, the events of that night – which they had no real control over other than perhaps raising the volume of their voices on the sideline to encourage their teammates – flipped their experience at WVU on its head.

They've played for three different head coaches in five seasons. Many of them have played for two or three position coaches. A team poised to play for a national title in their first year is scratching and clawing to try and win a lowly conference in their last.

Keith Tandy is one of those seniors. The Mountaineer cornerback came to West Virginia to play under the tutelage of former coach Tony Gibson. Gibson's last game at WVU was that loss to Pitt, and his first game since then is Friday. Only this time, Gibson will be on the Panthers' sideline.

Don Barclay, Tyler Rader and Chad Snograss, three fifth year senior offensive linemen, found their way to Morgantown with hopes of blocking for one of the nation's most high-powered rushing attacks.

They first played for Greg Frey, then Dave Johnson and now Bill Bedenbaugh. In that time, their schemes have changed and so has their philosophy. One of the nation's top run offenses has progressed into one of its best through the air.

Through it all, these three withstood the new elements of the offense and the new tasks asked of them. It all started with that game in 2007.

Each subsequent year, the players on the team have been bombarded with questions about that game. Every time the Backyard Brawl comes around, they're forced to relive the memories of that game.

Now they face the Panthers again. It's a team that has also seen its share of changes since that game in 2007 as what was supposed to be a springboard victory never resulted in the sort of success Pittsburgh envisioned.

Some who have already graduated and actually played in that game were always good for a quote or two about what that loss meant and how it has fueled the rivalry and their passion to go out and get a win this time around. Those who didn't play, but rather watched from the sideline, have a different perspective.

They remember, as freshmen, how horrible it felt not only to see the season fall apart, but also the emotional outpouring from the seniors that night.

The players who were introduced before that game were supposed to leave on top of the world and instead wanted to find a deep hole to crawl into and never reemerge.

There are 11 seniors who want no part of that feeling Friday night. There's a team full of underclassmen who would like nothing more than to spare those 11 of that feeling.

The 11 are Don Barclay, Najee Goode, Julian Miller, Cody Nutter, Tyler Rader, Eain Smith, Chad Snodgrass, Bradley Starks, Keith Tandy, Josh Taylor and Casey Vance.

These players, more than any other Mountaineers on the current roster, have weathered a tumultuous storm at WVU.

They have one more opportunity to go out as winners at Mountaineer Field. The fact that it's Pitt makes it that much more important.

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