YSU to close out season against Missouri State
By Brian Dzenis
Hunter Wells will have the chance to bring his football career full circle on Saturday.
The senior quarterback will start in what is likely Youngstown State’s season finale on Saturday against Missouri State. He’s still dealing with a separated shoulder that limited him to just four starts this season, but with YSU (5-5, 3-4 Missouri Valley Football Conference) all but eliminated from FCS playoff contention, there’s little left to lose.
“I have one more game left. What’s there to hold back?” Wells said at the football team’s final midweek news conference.
The Stark County native threw his first pass since Sept. 30 last Saturday during the Penguins’ 28-20 victory against Southern Illinois. In the second quarter of that contest, he threw his first touchdown pass since the season opener, a 48-yard toss to Damoun Patterson.
“It was great. He threw the pass and then turned to the O-line and we just stood there and we said, ‘Congrats man,’” YSU left tackle Justin Spencer said. “We had a little moment and he got a little emotional — I think he shed a tear.”
Wells, who hung around for Spencer’s turn at the podium, called his teammate’s account “false” with a grin.
Wells has been playing under center since his freshman season and he’s experienced everything a quarterback deals with, injuries, going up and down the depth chart and last season, he lead the team to the FCS title game.
“As far as wrapping your career up, everyone says how tough it is. It was tough at the end of my high school career, but I knew I was playing four more years in college,” Wells said. “I thought I had time left, but [going to] the next level is not in my favor. It’s going to be one of those things emotionally where you’re just done.
“I don’t know how it’s going to be until I get there.”
Wells is one of 20 seniors who will take the field for the final time against Missouri State (3-7, 2-5). Spencer is making his 50th consecutive start. His longevity prompted Wells to introduce him on Tuesday as “Joe Thomas.” His tenure on the offensive line may be long, but he was short with words to explain the streak.
“Treatment. Lots of treatment,” Spencer said.
Head coach Bo Pelini rolled with the reference to the Cleveland Browns’ longtime tackle.
“For a lineman to have as many starts as he’s had, it’s not like he felt good every week. He’s had injuries and nagging things and he fights through them and he finds a way,” Pelini said. “He’s a tough kid who’s committed to the team and is a really good leader. He’s a great example for younger kids to follow.”
Pelini wasn’t inclined to look back at the season just yet. It just isn’t his style.
“I look at it a different way. It’s day to day and week to week,” Pelini said. “I’ll reflect on it when it’s time to figure out where it goes from here.”
He sticks to that mantra to such a degree that he seemed surprised to learn his game was a noon kickoff.
“I might make mass after the game,” Pelini said. “I would have known (when games kick off), but maybe not until Thursday or Friday.”
Obviously, Pelini’s goal is to beat the Bears this weekend, but he said he will try to get as many of his seniors out there. How he’s going to do that? Youngstown will find out this weekend.
“Heck, you might see... you never know,” Pelini said. “I might suit up.”