Miller’s career night the perfect ending for final home game at WVU
Published: Tuesday, November 29, 2011
Updated: Tuesday, November 29, 2011 23:11
West Virginia's game against Pittsburgh Friday was a night senior defensive lineman Julian Miller will never forget.
And it started with a story he said he'll remember and will be telling people for the rest of his life
"I ran out of the tunnel (when being recognized as a senior) with my helmet off, and I had one of my teammates hold the helmet," Miller said. "By the time we come running back in to run out with the team, they had started the smoke already, so I can't see, and I don't know where my helmet's at.
"So I just turned back around and (defensive lineman) Shaq Rowell tosses me my helmet while we're running out, and I had to make the catch and put the helmet on before we ran out of the tunnel."
That's just one of the many stories he will go on to tell from WVU's 21-20 win in his final home game and his last time facing Pittsburgh.
"It was very emotional, it was different," he said. "I kind of didn't even hear anything else. I just saw all the fans, my teammates and everything else just went blank. Being there with my teammates ... it was a great experience overall."
Miller, who also turned 23 the night of the Backyard Brawl, made sure everyone else in attendance would remember the game too.
The Columbus, Ohio, native recorded career-highs with 12 tackles and four sacks against the Panthers.
"I came off the field, got into the locker room and heard the stats, and I was in disbelief," Miller said. "Not even the performance but just the experience of tonight. The atmosphere, the way my guys went out there and played, the crowd, the fans, all that. This is probably the greatest experience.
"I love being a Mountaineer, and this just capitalizes my whole experience being a Mountaineer these past five years."
After struggling to slow down the Pittsburgh offense in the first half, the Mountaineer defense came up big in the second half.
Every time the Panthers looked like they had a chance to put the game away or claw back into the game late in the second half, West Virginia found a way to get a stop.
"I'm so proud of those guys and the way we went out and fought," Miller said. "All year we've been kind of a second half team, but just the way we went out and played in that second half was just lights out. I'm just glad we could do it tonight."
As one of just a handful of players who has been playing for WVU since its last trip to a BCS game, Miller is anxious for the opportunity to get to go to another one this season and actually play.
But he understands there's still a lot that has to happen before they get there.
If the Mountaineers win Thursday against South Florida and Cincinnati beats Connecticut, WVU will have their BCS bid locked up.
"You really don't even want to get your mind close to even wrapping around it because regardless of what happens anywhere else, we've got to win the last game," he said. "That's all we're focused on now is to try to go down to Tampa and to try to come out of there with a win."
A Big East Conference title and an appearance in a BCS game would be the icing on the cake for what has already been a great career for Miller.
But when people look back at what he did in his time at West Virginia, he doesn't want to be remembered for how many games he won or how many times he sacked a quarterback.
"Hopefully I defined a West Virginia Mountaineer for (the fans)," he said. "I hope I defined a guy who was willing to go out there, work hard for the team, represent for the fans and this state and just grind it out."