MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Shaq Rowell came to West Virginia expecting triple teams and bowl games and a shot at a national championship.
Some expectations were met. The redshirt senior nose tackle battled his share of linemen in the trenches. The Mountaineers played in bowl games his first four seasons and won the 2012 Orange Bowl.
After a transition from the Big East to the Big 12 last fall, though, the program met a harsh reality. For the first time since 2001, the Mountaineers’ season will end in November, not in a bowl game.
With his parting words as a Mountaineer, Rowell mustered every bit of the West Virginia pride he has built up and bled out on Saturdays for the past five years.
“Every great dynasty that ever ruled came to an end,” Rowell said. “Everything evolves.”
Rowell and the 13 other members of the senior class will take the field for the final time as Mountaineers today as West Virginia plays Iowa State (2-9, 1-7, Big 12) in the season finale at Milan Puskar Stadium.
Tuesday, Holgorsen called the Cyclones “the best 2-9 team in the country.” Quarterback Clint Trickett went as far as saying they’re “the best 2-9 football team in the history of football.”
Iowa State blanked Kansas, 34-0, Saturday, one week after the Jayhawks had trounced West Virginia.
With little left to play for, the Mountaineers (4-7, 2-6) are playing for the seniors.
“It would mean a lot to go out on a good note,” senior linebacker Doug Rigg said. “We don’t want to lose to back-to-back teams at the bottom of the Big 12. We want to go out with a win.”
The senior class, one that has endured a coaching change and a conference change, has spoken all season about its legacy. The legacy won’t be the Orange Bowl, redshirt senior center Pat Eger said, but now it’ll be remembered as the class that broke the bowl streak.
“It’s kind of hard to think about what you’re going to be remembered as, since we’re not having the greatest season,” redshirt senior linebacker Tyler Anderson said. “But we want to go out with a win this week.”
When asked of their fondest memories in West Virginia uniforms, the class was split between the Orange Bowl victory and its 2011 victory against Pitt in the final installment of the Backyard Brawl.
It might not have been that national championship he expected, but Rowell didn’t think twice before answering.
“Beating Pitt,” Rowell said, laughing. “I’m from Cleveland so I hate everything about Pitt. It’s not the Orange Bowl; it’s beating Pitt. I’ll never forget that.”
Stephen J. Nesbitt: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.