Saturday was SMU Senior Day.
At the end of the game, 20 players were honored for their efforts for the past four years. Guys like Chris Banjo, Kelvin Beachum, Cole Beasley, Richard Crawford, Marquis Frazier, J.J. McDermott, Josh LeRibeus and Taylor Thompson were among them.
These are the players that were freshmen when June Jones stepped in as head coach. These guys are the leaders and faces of this team.
They were there when the Mustangs went 1-11 in 2008, and they were there when the team became bowl eligible for this first time since the Death Penalty in 2009.
These guys have poured their blood, sweat, tears, grit and time into rebuilding this program and Saturday was their last home game.
And a crowd of just 14,442 was announced at Ford Stadium.
"It's disappointing, I don't know what other word to say," Jones said. "I'm happy for the fans that are here, very appreciative to them, but you certainly would like to send off this group of kids with more people."
The lack of support was heart breaking. It was Thanksgiving weekend, but it's hard to use that as an excuse as there are so many other football games that get sold out on Thanksgiving Day and throughout the weekend all over the country.
"It was expected," Beasley said. "It will eventually get better as the program continues to get better. After 25 years, it's expected to be like that. You have to slowly get it back."
Added junior linebacker Taylor Reed: "We knew going in that the crowd wasn't going to be here. That's OK. We had some loyal fans who came out on their break and that's great. We know it's Thanksgiving, we didn't expect too many people. We're playing for ourselves as a team and for the seniors."
The fact that the players knew there wouldn't be many fans there is also sad. Part of getting up for a college football game is coming out of the tunnel and seeing a roaring, supportive crowd and the Mustangs don't quite have that luxury yet.
SMU is expected to accept an invitation into the Big East in the near future. Maybe when bigger and better opponents than Rice come to town, more fans will flock to Ford. But the support should be there before that happens. Bandwagon fans don't help programs in the long run.
After SMU's 27-24 win over Rice, the 20 seniors were honored in front of their families and a few fans that stayed to watch.
It was a special moment that hopefully more people will be able to witness in the future.
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