Armon Binns and his seniors shift their eyes toward the future, but not before leaving the program they helped build into a power with the motivation to help return.
By Will Frasure
Special for GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- With the ball sailing his way, Armon Binns had one last chance to make an impact as a Cincinnati Bearcat.
But in a matter of seconds, Pittsburgh's Dom DeCicco cut in front of the Cincinnati receiver and snatched the ball away. It was a bittersweet ending for Binns and the other 12 seniors' careers.
"I've been a part of the highest of highs and the lowest of lows this year," Binns said about his career as a Bearcat. "It's just been a great experience. I've been blessed with my time here."
It was an emotional finish for the team's seniors. After tasting the sweetness of BCS Bowls and the sour of this season, the group offered messages to their younger teammates moving forward.
Offensive lineman Jason Kelce offered the most resounding statement, telling the players that they need to look in the mirror and realize the blame falls on everyone for the lack of success this year.
To the younger players, he talked about not complaining about the hard work of the off-season, because if they slack, they'll feel the pain of this season again.
"His message was he doesn't want to come back here five years from now, 10 years from now and have a season like this again," quarterback Zach Collaros said. "For us to learn from it, to learn from the seniors what they maybe should have done."
The quieter Binns offered a softer message to the team's receivers.
"I'm not a big talker," Binns said. "But I told them to hold themselves to a higher standard and come in everyday with a purpose."
With their collegiate careers over, the seniors will pick up the pieces and move on to another phase of their lives.
Binns leaves Cincinnati as one of the top receivers to come through the program. His 1,979 career yards and signature touchdown catch against Pittsburgh last season will make him unforgettable in Clifton for years.
Now, he will begin training for the NFL as he prepares for April's draft. But the receiver said he hasn't even thought about the future, only the sting of the loss.
The pain could be seen in his face as he sat solemnly alone, head buried in his hands after answering post-game questions.
"I guess I gotta start thinking about that," Binns said. "I've thought about it a little bit, but I've basically just been trying to suck up the last moments here and enjoy the little bit of time I got left."
It was a painful conclusion, as Cincinnati turned the ball over and squandered chances to get back into the game.
"It hurts a lot," Binns said. "You can't really do anything about it. Those were the cards that got dealt to us. I guess you just gotta take it in the chin and move on."
The torch has been passed from Binns and his fellow seniors onto Collaros, Isaiah Pead and the other future leaders of the program. While the receiver starts preparing for the professional level, Collaros and the others will begin the restoration process after the disappointment of 4-8.
"It can't go anywhere but up," Binns said. "I think the guys will work hard, guys like Zach and Pead. Plus with the work ethic this coaching staff has instilled in us, they'll come back ready to go."