MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Darwin Cook has limped around for 10 days with an aching groin, and Doug Rigg was only recently cleared to practice after his second concussion. Two West Virginia seniors, each listed as questionable and each carrying strong intentions of playing Saturday in their final college football game.
“I knew (a concussion) was nothing to play around, but I told (team doctors) I had to at least give an effort to play this game,” Rigg said. “Even though it’s not really for anything—it’s just for playing my last game here—it would mean a lot to me to play this game.”
Rigg was carted off the field in Week 2 at Oklahoma after suffering a helmet-to-helmet hit with teammate Karl Joseph. After sitting out one game, the linebacker returned to action only to sustain a second concussion in Week 7 against Texas Tech. Again he missed the following week’s game (against Kansas State) before being cleared to return for TCU, where “he went in for a couple snaps … and was in La-La Land,” said coach Dana Holgorsen.
After watching his teammates eliminated from bowl contention by a pride-sucking loss to Kansas, Rigg remains hopeful of making a Senior Day contribution against Iowa State.
“Obviously the Kansas loss doesn’t look good for the senior class, so we want to go out with a win,” he said. “We don’t want to lose to back-to-back teams at the bottom of the Big 12.”
Cook was injured in the second quarter at Kansas and stuck around for two more series before it became obvious he was incapable of running. On a 68-yard touchdown run, KU running back James Sims sped past Cook as the safety hobbled in pursuit.
Given time to heal during a bye week, Cook said he likes his chances of playing Saturday.
“I can’t miss this senior game,” he said. “I’m hurting, but you can’t miss the game.”
Between receiving treatment on his injury and preparing for Iowa State, Cook said he hasn’t take much time to ponder his legacy at West Virginia. Of course, part of his legacy will be as one of the best quotes on the team.
“I don’t want people to think I sucked,” said the fifth-year senior. “I ain’t trying to make them think I was the greatest player to ever play for the Mountaineers, but I just want them to appreciate what I did here. Any gesture that they give (Saturday) will be appreciated.”
Cook’s 99-yard fumble return against Clemson in a 70-33 Orange Bowl romp remains a career highlight.
“Yeah, that’s my best memory. I hope people still remember it when I’m gone,” he said.
As much as WVU enjoyed the Orange Bowl, the preceding 21-20 victory in the final Backyard Brawl meant more to nose tackle Shaq Rowell.
“I’m from Cleveland so I hate everything about Pitt,” he said. “Beating Pitt—I’ll never forget that.”
With no postseason reward on deck, West Virginia (4-7, 2-6 Big 12) might feel like the season was a failure. Despite all the work that went into producing a losing record, Rowell said he has savored the time with his teammates.
“Let’s be honest—football is easy,” he said. “The real life is hard and I’m about to step into it in two weeks.
“But I’ll be around this program as much as God will bless me to be around this program. Not everybody gets to be a Mountaineer. Only 85 players per year can be a Mountaineer, and I’m just blessed to be one of them.”
The game kicks off at 4 p.m. and Iowa State (2-9, 1-7) has nothing on the line either.
“It really sucks not to go to a bowl game this year, but I’m a true believer that everything does happen for a reason,” said West Virginia senior center Pat Eger. “To go back and give (the fans) our last game here, it’s going to be pretty special.”