Longhorns Look to Spoil Senior Day at WVU
MORGANTOWN — Fans coming to watch No. 24 West Virginia (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) take on the University of Texas (5-5, 4-3 Big 12) at noon at Milan Puskar Stadium will see a somewhat more emotional coach Dana Holgorsen and his staff will say goodbye to 20 seniors on Senior Day.
“Thoughts of Texas this week, probably the first thing that comes to mind is the last home game, Senior Day,” Holgorsen said. “We have 20 seniors; it’s an interesting class, really. Of the 20 seniors, 10 of them are high-school guys, and 10 of them are transfers, which, over the course of the last four years – probably you guys are aware of – that’s kind of been our thing.
“As we get a bunch of good high-school kids in here and develop them over the course of four or five years, and then add a bunch of transfers to it as well, whether they’re four-year guys, graduate transfers, junior-college transfers, this class has a mix of all of them. So, everything we do this week will be about those guys, and getting them a victory on Saturday to close out their career. A lot of them won a lot of games, whether it’s transfers over the last two years, or guys like (redshirt senior linebacker Al-Rasheed) Benton and (redshirt senior fullback/tight end) Eli Wellman, who are fifth-year guys that have been to four straight bowl games and helped us win a lot of games.
“Those guys mean a lot to me, and it makes me want to coach harder this week, prepare harder this week and get ourselves in positions to win the game on Saturday. It should be a good deal. It is what it is, noon, it is what it is. We should be used to that; everybody should have a routine by now – I know I do. Getting over to the Marriott at the specific time that we get there and waking up at the same time, we’ll be ready to roll.”
There are 15 fifth-year seniors on the 2017 roster including Al-Rasheed Benton (LB), Kyle Bosch (OL), Parkersburg High School graduate D.J. Carozza (DL), Shane Commodore (S), Hodari Christian II (LB), Marvin Gross Jr. (S), Jon Lewis (DL), Grant Lingafelter (OL), Alejandro Marenco III (WR), Williamstown graduate Nick Meadows (LS), Mike Molina (K), Xavier Pegues (DL), Elijah Wellman (FB), Ka’Raun White (WR), and Corey Winfield (CB).
Of that group Bosch, Carozza, Christian, Lewis, Lingafelter, Meadows, Molina, Ricky Rogers (WR), White and Winfield have already earned their undergraduate degrees.
“I think you guys can tell, so to speak, that this is going to be a challenging game and a challenging week,” Holgorsen said. “I’m thrilled about it; it should be a great way to close the season out and, hopefully, get our seniors a win that they’ll remember for a long time.”
Wellman and Benton have served as the team’s captains this season.
“It’s coming to an end and I wish it wasn’t, but everybody’s time here comes to an end,” Wellman said. “This week, I’m going to enjoy it and, come this Saturday, we’re going to try and sing “Country Roads” after the game. I’m excited to see that, get out there with my teammates one last time in front of Mountaineer field and see if we can get a win to send us out the right way.”
To accomplish that feat Wellman and his offensive teammates are going to have to find a way to consistently move the football against the Big 12’s No. 2 defense. The Longhorns come to Morgantown allowing a mere 115 yards per game rushing.
“I’m excited,” Wellman said. “It’s a big opponent. It’s a cool game to end the season in Morgantown. Like we say every week, we need to respect our opponent no matter who it is. It wouldn’t matter who it was. It’s going to be a big game for us.”
That means getting senior running back Justin Crawford off to a fast start. The junior college transfer enters his final game at Mountaineer Field needing 102 yards to eclipse the 1,000 yard mark for the second year in a row.
“First of all, we’ve got these three more games with him and it’s gone fairly quick,” running backs coach Tony Dews said. “I’m hoping that we can send him out, along with all the other seniors, the best way we can.”
A victory over the Longhorns will not only send the seniors out with a win in their final game at home, but set up a showdown with preseason favorite Oklahoma on Saturday, Nov. 25th with a chance to secure a spot in the conference’s championship game.