WVU’s Elijah Wellman Respects Utes

WVU’s Elijah Wellman Respects Utes

DALLAS, TEXAS–Utah comes to Dallas with a 6-6 record, but West Virginia knows its Heart of Dallas Bowl opponent is much more dangerous than a typical .500 foe.

The Utes were 4-0 early in the season, but then lost six of their next seven. Four of those losses, though, were by less than one score, so with a little different luck, Utah’s record could be much different.

The Utes may not have had much luck in the 2017 regular season, but their bowl record in sparkling.

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham

Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham is 110-56 in his 13 seasons leading the Utes, and that includes an incredible 10-1 mark in bowl games. Whittingham is just the latest to lead Utah to postseason success, as the program is 16-4 all time in bowl games, including a 32-6 trouncing of West Virginia in the 1964 Liberty Bowl in the Atlantic City Convention Center.

Mountaineer senior fullback Elijah Wellman knows WVU is facing a tough foe on Tuesday.

“Utah is a great opponent,” said Wellman. “Coach (Dana Holgorsen) always says respect your opponent, and that’s what we’re going to do.

“This is my last game as a Mountaineer. There wouldn’t be anything better than getting a win in your last football game.”

To pull out a victory in the Heart of Dallas Bowl, West Virginia will likely need all the offense it can get. Historically, 30 points has been the minimum WVU must score for postseason success. In the last 32 years, the Mountaineers are 8-3 in bowl games when scoring at least 30 points and 0-13 when scoring less.

With starting quarterback Will Grier still sidelined with a hand injury he suffered last month, backup Chris Chugunov is going to have to shoulder that load.

The redshirt sophomore QB completed 24-of-46 passes for 326 yards while filling in for Grier in losses to Texas and Oklahoma.

But with a few more weeks to prepare for Utah, the hope is Chugunov and the offense are more in synch for the bowl game.

“Our timing with Chugs had been a little shaky, but with the practices we’ve gotten in, I think that timing has improved,” noted Wellman, who caught five passes this year, including two in the regular season finale at Oklahoma. “Chris is a relaxed guy. He doesn’t get worked up about much of anything. He doesn’t display any nerves during a game, and that’s good.”

As for Wellman, the kid from Huntington has put together a heck of a career at for his home state program. He’s played in 50 games over the past four seasons, and was named honorable mention all-Big 12 this past year. As a glorified guard in the backfield, the fullback does get a whole lot of glory, but his blocking and leadership have been key for the Mountaineers since he arrived from Spring Valley High School in the summer of 2013.

“It’s been a dream come true for me to be able to run around Mountaineer Field every day,” stated Wellman, who recently finished his undergraduate work at WVU. “I haven’t taken it for granted. I’ve enjoyed every minute of it. It’s coming down to the last couple days now, and I’m drinking it all in.

“They tell you time flies, but you don’t really listen to that until moments like this. It’s hard to believe it’s almost over. I wish I could come back and do it all over again. But know I’ll just have to be content sitting in the stands watching.”

Before he moves to the bleachers, though, Wellman has a few more days as a Mountaineer player.

“I’m just soaking it all in. This is my last game, and it’s something I’m going to remember for the rest of my life.”