Disappointed Seniors Face Final Game at WVU - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

Disappointed Seniors Face Final Game at WVU

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MORGANTOWN -

Senior day is a time for celebration, a time to look back on the seasons past while preparing for a final home game and a subsequent bowl game.

Only this year, West Virginia's graduating class will trot onto the Mountaineer Field knowing they will never wear that uniform again. Some will never play competitive football again. And with nothing to play for but a fifth victory on the season, it's easy to question how many fans will show up to send them off.

"All we can do is come back next week and get ready for Iowa State, my last game ever wearing the old gold and blue," said a dejected Pat Eger after Saturday's 31-19 loss at Kansas.

The sting of this one will not soon go away, especially knowing that what lies ahead is a full two weeks before another chance to get out on the field and put one in the win column.

A loss to the Jayhawks ensures that West Virginia stays home this winter with no bowl practices or excursions or gear. Iowa State on Nov. 30 is it.

"It's tough," said junior quarterback Paul Millard. "That's what the goal was, to win the next two games, send the seniors to a bowl game. We didn't get it done today and it's hard. It's hard on those guys and it's hard on us."

After meeting some of the opposing players at midfield after the final seconds ticked off the clock, Eger and the rest of the seniors wound their way through crowds of fans that had rushed the field. Senior defensive lineman Will Clarke, who has gone up against Eger every day in practice during their stay in Morgantown, put his arm around a visibly emotional teammate as the two walked off toward the visitors' locker room.

Asked if he could describe the emotions he was feeling, knowing WVU has surrendered its right to a 13th game, Eger said he could not.

"There's no point," he said. "There's no way anyone could understand, besides the people in this locker room. Unless it's someone who has been through college football and understands what it is, it just sucks right now."

Senior defensive lineman Shaq Rowell, a clear leader who typically takes charge of the pregame speeches on the field, acknowledged precisely what led to the defeat on Saturday. The Mountaineers stepped on another team's turf and did not want it as badly, did not fight as hard as their host.

A no-excuse mentality has always been Rowell's style. Never would he try to explain away the losses that have piled up in his final two seasons any way other than saying, it's on us.

He, too, has just one game left to put on the Flying WV and represent the 1.8 million people of West Virginia who he so frequently references in his interviews.

"It's going to be tough, just knowing that it's my last game. But me, being the person that I am, I've got a lot of life to live and I'm just going to be positive about it," said Rowell. "Next year, I'm probably going to dwell on it. Right now, it's not really hitting me. It might not hit me for a while."

Players like Brad Lewis, Corey McIntyre and Shawn Terry can understand what Rowell and his fellow seniors are going through. Back then, in 2001, the Mountaineers fell in their final three contests, including a senior day Backyard Brawl loss to Pittsburgh.

Now, West Virginia's official athletics website lists 13 seniors. Some have been with the program for five years, while others like Charles Sims are brand new to the program. All of them know that on Nov. 30 at 4 p.m., they will take the field for the last time as collegiate football players.

"One thing I do know about this team is we do have some great guys on this team. I love those guys. I wouldn't change nothing about this season, not even the losses. I know one thing, those guys are fighters," Rowell said. "We came out, gave our all and it wasn't enough."

There may not be a bowl game or anything more than the chance to win a fifth game on the line next Saturday, but for these seniors, that will be enough.

"You've got to play for a win," said Eger. "All the blood, sweat and tears that we've been through in the offseason, season, everything – we're going to give everything that we can."

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