MORGANTOWN - Joe Madsen came to West Virginia University five years ago with dreams of playing offensive guard. But since his move to center, he has experience a recurring nightmare.
"I have had these nightmares of snapping the ball and breaking (quarterback Geno Smith's) fingers and having the whole state of West Virginia hate me," he said with a laugh.
Madsen has seen the best of the Mountaineer quarterbacks, both Pat White and
Geno Smith with Jarrett Brown sandwiched in between. Admittedly, it's been a pretty unique view of the group from a perspective that only a center can have.
"Those were guys you looked up and wanted to emulate," he said. "You want to stand up with those guys."
Not that he hasn't enjoyed watching receiver and now running back Tavon Austin make opposing defenses grasp for ghosts. But he said he learned a lesson last week from admiring Austin's exploits too long.
"I got laid out in the Iowa State game," Madsen said. "I was watching Tavon make people look silly, and then, bam! I got blown up. That's when I thought that maybe I should be paying a little more attention."
Madsen has been a four-year starter at center for the Mountaineers after being red-shirted in his first year on the Morgantown campus.
His 49 starts is the most on the team, and he has been selected this year as a second-team mid-season All-America lineman by Phil Steele, CBSSports.com and SI.com.
He was recruited by former coach Rich Rodriguez, and he was in the room when Rodriguez announced that he had "signed a contract to stay here forever."
"Then he didn't," Madsen said.
He went through the tumultuous coaching change that led to Bill Stewart's departure and Dana Holgorsen's arrival a year earlier than expected.
"We stuck together as a team, even with the coaching changes," he said. "We stepped up and worked harder."
Saturday's game against Kansas will be his final game at Mountaineer Field, and he said he will probably be as speechless as he was when he was a shy freshman
new to the campus.
"After the game is when it will probably hit us," Madsen said. "The seniors will probably come together in the locker room and shed a few tears.
"But after the first play, it will be right back to the same old me," he added.
"I want to go out and play my best game ever and have no regrets when I walk off that field."
Contact John Wickline by email at firstname.lastname@example.org