With less than a week to go until the Orange Bowl against the Clemson Tigers, the anticipation is beginning to build. A lot of players are returning home to the Miami area, while others are getting ready for the the first bowl game of their college careers. But 11 guys are excited to return to the BCS, this time with an opportunity to contribute.
Back in 2007, West Virginia went out to the desert in Arizona to take on the Oklahoma Sooners in the Fiesta Bowl. With their backs against the wall and an interim coach at the helm, the Mountaineers shocked the nation after defeating the Sooners, 48-28.
There were many young faces standing on the sideline that night, and a few of them are headed back to the BCS for the second time. Don Barclay, Najee Goode, Julian Miller, Cody Nutter, Tyler Rader, Eain Smith, Chad Snodgrass, Brad Starks* , Keith Tandy, Josh Taylor* and Casey Vance are all preparing for the Orange Bowl this week.
A few of these players have made quite a name for themselves since the Fiesta Bowl. Julian Miller is the current FBS sack leader with 29.5 in his career. Keith Tandy has 12 career interceptions and was also first team All-Big East in 2010. Don Barlcay has started at left tackle the past three seasons and was also first team All-Big East this year. Brad Starks [not playing in the Orange Bowl due to injury] ended up with 12 touchdowns [11 receiving, one rushing] in his career.
Najee Goode and Eain Smith are also starters on this year's defense and Cody Nutter has been a very reliable long snapper the last three seasons.
This senior class has a bowl record of 1-2, with the one win coming three years ago in the Meineke Car Care Bowl against North Carolina. The last two have been losses to Florida State in the Gator Bowl and N.C. State in the Champs Sports Bowl.
Another thing that has eluded this senior class is that 10th win. West Virginia has finished 9-4 each of the last three seasons and they want that to change this year.
"Getting that 10th win is really big, especially with a BCS win," Don Barclay said. "Just to send the team, the players and the seniors out right and also to send this program to a whole new level."
"There are only a few teams in West Virginia history that have won 10 games and to do it in a BCS game and it being my last game would be huge," Najee Goode said. "This will be one of the biggest games I've played in besides the LSU game, Oklahoma game and the other bowl games. For us seniors, it'll be a way for people in the future to remember us and for everyone else, it'll be a way to build for next year."
Like stated before, none of these players were able to play in the Fiesta Bowl, so although they were there to prepare and enjoy the festivities of a BCS game, they were unable to get on the field. They are excited to finally get a chance to shine on the big stage.
"It'll be a 100x's more fun for the simple fact that I get to play in it and I'm starting," Goode said. "Just like Marc Magro and all those other guys from the Fiesta Bowl, it'll be my last game and I get to play against a great opponent in Clemson. Just to be in this type of environment is huge and I'll lose a little bit of sleep over it but come game time, we'll be ready to go."
These redshirt seniors have been preaching to the young guys to have fun and enjoy the ride, but also to realize they are there to win a football game.
"That's a big thing because [the redshirt seniors] have been to the BCS," Goode said. "The rest of the guys haven't. Julian [Miller], Eain [Smith], Keith [Tandy], Josh [Taylor] and I have all been there on defense. That's one thing we're going to talk about this week and have a players meeting to let these guys know that we're here to have fun, but at the same time the reason why we're down here is to play a football game on the 4th."
These players entered their college careers with a big win and now they're hoping they can end it doing the same.