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Saying Goodbye: Pitt seniors lament last loss, cherish memories made

Senior+middle+linebacker+Matt+Galambos+%2847%29+sings+Pitt%27s+victory+song+with+teammates+after+the+Panthers%27+42-39+win+over+Penn+State+Sept.+10.+Jeff+Ahearn+%7C+Senior+Staff+Photographer
Senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos (47) sings Pitt's victory song with teammates after the Panthers' 42-39 win over Penn State Sept. 10. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos (47) sings Pitt's victory song with teammates after the Panthers' 42-39 win over Penn State Sept. 10. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos (47) sings Pitt's victory song with teammates after the Panthers' 42-39 win over Penn State Sept. 10. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

By Steve Rotstein | Sports Editor

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The Pitt football team’s Pinstripe Bowl matchup against Northwestern was supposed to be a coronation of sorts for the Panthers’ 2016 senior class.

After two 6-6 seasons under Todd Graham in 2013 and 2014, the seniors helped engineer a smooth transition to Pitt’s new regime, posting back-to-back eight-win seasons under new head coach Pat Narduzzi. They picked up several memorable wins along the way, including a shocking upset over the No. 2 Clemson Tigers in their final road game.

But instead of ending their college careers with the euphoria of victory — not to mention a four-game winning streak and potentially a top-20 ranking — Pitt’s seniors will have to deal with the sting of the 31-24 loss to the Wildcats at Yankee Stadium.

After the disappointing defeat, members of the senior class opened up about the prevailing feeling inside the locker room and what it’s like knowing they’ve suited up as Pitt Panthers for the last time.

Pitt senior defensive end Ejuan Price tallied 13 sacks in 2016 to finish with 29.5 for his college career. Steve Rotstein | Contributing Editor

Pitt senior defensive end Ejuan Price tallied 13 sacks in 2016 to finish with 29.5 for his college career. Steve Rotstein | Contributing Editor

Pitt senior defensive end Ejuan Price, about the state of the locker room: “Emotional. Emotional. “I didn’t think I was going to be that guy, but I gave a little speech, a little tears were running every now and again.”

Price — who picked up a sack in his final college game against Northwestern, giving him 13 on the season and 29.5 for his career — said the message of his speech was about always being there for his teammates, even after their days playing together are over.

“I just let them know that I love them, I’m always going to be there for them, only a phone call away,” Price said. “If anybody ever needs anything, I’m available.”

Senior wide receiver Dontez Ford finishes his Pitt career with 843 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Steve Rotstein | Contributing Editor

Senior wide receiver Dontez Ford finishes his Pitt career with 843 receiving yards and five touchdowns. Steve Rotstein | Contributing Editor

Pitt senior wide receiver Dontez Ford: “It was emotional. Not necessarily because we lost that game but because I’m not going to get to see those guys, you know what I mean?” senior wide receiver Dontez Ford said. “Over the last couple of years, I built pretty strong relationships with the majority of this team. Walking through the locker room, knowing everybody by name. And now I’m not going to see any of those guys. I’m not going to see the staff as much. It’s hard.”

Price said his heart was hurting after the game — not because of the loss but from the realization it was his last time being with this group.

“That’s what got me emotional, knowing there’s some people I’ll never see again,” Price said.

Senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos (47) racked up 13 tackles in the final game of his college career against Northwestern. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos (47) racked up 13 tackles in the final game of his college career against Northwestern. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Senior middle linebacker Matt Galambos, on talking to his teammates: “I was telling them, ‘I’ll see you soon, no matter where it is.’ Just around, maybe in Pittsburgh, things like that. So I mean, this thing ain’t over. We’re going away kind of to do our own thing, but we’ll all get together soon.”

Galambos tallied a team-high 13 tackles in the Pinstripe Bowl.

Pitt senior offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty is projected as a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. Steve Rotstein | Contributing Editor

Pitt senior offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty is projected as a second-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by CBS Sports. Steve Rotstein | Contributing Editor

Senior offensive lineman Adam Bisnowaty, on his role as a fan: “It’s real tough. Not only just the game itself, but this is the last time this team will be together, last time I’ll ever put that Pitt jersey on. So it’s pretty emotional. Forever I’ll be a Pitt man, but it’s the last time I’ll put that jersey on. So I’ll be rooting for Pitt the rest of my life.”

Bisnowaty, a two-time first-team All-ACC selection, is currently ranked as the No. 5 offensive tackle and No. 49 overall prospect in the 2017 NFL Draft class by CBS Sports. While he prepares to move on to the next level, the massive left tackle reflected on how fast the past four years went by.

“Time flies by, and these young guys [have to] cherish every moment,” Bisnowaty said. “You always come in, the older guys tell you, ‘Time flies.’ People look at them like they’re crazy, but then here you are, last game. So it’s been a hell of a ride and a lot of fun.”

Pitt senior defensive end Ejuan Price is projected as a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by CBS Sports. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

Pitt senior defensive end Ejuan Price is projected as a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft by CBS Sports. Jeff Ahearn | Senior Staff Photographer

It’s been a long ride for all of the seniors but especially so for Price — a sixth-year senior who has been part of three coaching regimes during his time at Pitt.

Price, a native of Rankin, Pennsylvania, has overcome several major injuries to start in all 13 games each of the past two years. Along the way, he’s racked up double-digit sacks in both years, showing NFL scouts he has the ability to stay healthy and terrorize quarterbacks for a full season.

At just 5-foot-11, Price doesn’t have the length of a prototypical NFL defensive end. But with such an explosive first step and natural pass-rushing instincts, he has a great chance to find a home with an NFL team as an outside linebacker in the upcoming draft. CBS Sports currently projects him going in the fifth round as the No. 14 outside linebacker prospect.

“Just the purity of the game, no money involved, we’re just out here together,” Price said. “Whether it’s two-a-days or the fourth-quarter program, just going through something and spending every day with certain guys. I’m going to miss that.”

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Saying Goodbye: Pitt seniors lament last loss, cherish memories made