Patrick Vahe and Charles Omenihu received their college football baptism three years ago, in South Bend, Ind.
That 38-3 season-opening loss to the Fighting Irish in 2015 was the first game for both players, who were members of Charlie Strong’s 2015 signing class. Now seniors, they will play their final home game on Saturday when the Longhorns host Iowa State at Royal-Memorial Stadium. On Tuesday, Omenihu said he’ll never forget being a 235-pound freshman defensive end receiving a “welcome to college football hit” from Notre Dame offensive lineman Quenton Nelson. Vahe, starting at right guard that night, had to block both Sheldon Day and Jaylon Smith.
All three of those Notre Dame standouts are now playing in the NFL.
“It was a long night, I’ll tell you that,” Vahe said.
Things have gotten better at Texas for Omenihu and Vahe since that loss. Saturday night, the good memories and moments will be celebrated as UT honors 26 players before their final game at Royal-Memorial Stadium.
Texas’ seniors have logged 512 career games as Longhorns. The offensive seniors have combined for 1,086 rushing yards, 1,001 receiving yards and 1,264 passing yards. Defensively, the outgoing Longhorns have accounted for 43 sacks, 19 forced fumbles and nine interceptions.
When asked on Tuesday to name his favorite UT moment, offensive lineman Elijah Rodriguez pointed to this year’s 37-14 win over USC. Defensive tackle Chris Nelson cited the debut of his celebratory belly rub celebration during that same game. Linebacker Anthony Wheeler recalled the fumble he returned for a touchdown in last year’s Texas Bowl. Vahe recalled Tyrone Swoopes’ game-winning touchdown in overtime against Notre Dame in 2016, saying he “felt like I was in a national championship at the time.”
Omenihu has recorded 15 sacks over his four years, and he’d lead his personal highlight reel with his takedowns of Baker Mayfield, Sam Darnold and Kyler Murray. Mayfield and Darnold were picked first and third overall in this year’s NFL draft. Both are starting as rookies. This June, the Oakland A’s selected Murray with the ninth overall selection in the MLB draft.
“You’ve got to put the rich boys first,” Omenihu said of his favorite sacks.
Texas still has two regular-season games and a bowl game left to play. The Big 12 championship game also remains in play. So the seniors will have a few additional opportunities to make new lasting memories.
On Saturday, Texas will welcome Iowa State to town for an important conference clash. The Longhorns (7-3, 5-2 Big 12) and Cyclones (6-3, 5-2) are both a game behind first-place Oklahoma and West Virginia in the Big 12 standings.
Recently, senior-day celebrations at Texas have only been a pre-game activity. In each of the past four years, UT has closed out its home schedule with losses to TCU and Texas Tech. Recalling the emotions of last year’s seniors after a 27-23 loss to Texas Tech has served as a motivational tool this week.
“What happened last year is something we didn’t want them to go out as,” Vahe said. “We owe it to those guys. Even though it wasn’t as we wanted it to be, we learned a lot. We’ve got to make sure that we do everything the right way. Not only for our goals but also for the people who played here before us.”