WVU's McAfee Looks for Redemption

Article excerpt

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - West Virginia kicker Pat McAfee of Plum was as stunned as anyone when Pitt bounced West Virginia out of the BCS National Championship Game.

He walked off the field at 11:30 p.m. on Dec. 1 following the 13- 9 upset, and retreated to the solitude of his locker inside Milan Puskar Stadium. Occasionally pulling his jersey across his face to hide his anguish over missing two field goals, he didn't move for almost an hour.

"At 12:25 a.m., he hadn't taken off his shoes, pants, jersey -- anything," said West Virginia interim coach Bill Stewart, McAfee's special teams coach for the past three seasons.

"I put my arm around him and said, 'Hey, big guy, I wouldn't trade you for anyone in the country.' I said it then, I said it at the (football) banquet, and I'll say it again. He's the best kickoff- punt guy combination in the country today."

Stewart described what happened next in WVU's locker room:

"Low and behold, (linebacker) Reed Williams comes over and says, 'Say it again coach!' So I said, 'Pat, I wouldn't trade you for anyone.' But Pat still had his head down in his jersey. He had just had a bad night."

Linebacker Bobby Hathaway spoke up next, Stewart said. Then linebacker Marc Magro chimed in. Several defensive linemen walked over, and all of them left no doubt they still believed in their kicker.

"I really appreciated that, and I found out who my real friends were," McAfee said. "I found out who my real boys were."

Despite the death threats that followed, despite the nasty e- mails to his girlfriend, and the bottles tossed as his Jeep, McAfee said he'll have his confidence back when No. 11 West Virginia (10- 2) plays No. 3 Oklahoma Jan. 2 in the Fiesta Bowl.

"I'm back, and I'm ready to rock," he said. "I'm ready to go."

In bits and pieces, West Virginia's team arrived in Phoenix on Wednesday, which many players traveling directly from their homes following a four-day holiday break.

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