Polian to players: No fun, just get a win
For the Nevada Appeal
The Nevada Wolf Pack didn’t go to Hawaii this week to work on its suntan.
“There won’t be any sightseeing,” Wolf Pack head coach Brian Polian said. “If they want to go sightseeing, they can go back there on their honeymoon someday. We’re not going to set foot on the beach.”
No beach. No sunshine. No tropical breezes and no waves up rolling up on the sand for the Wolf Pack. The only thing the Wolf Pack is concerned about this week in Honolulu is their football game tonight (9 p.m.) against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors at Aloha Stadium.
“We have a bunch of guys who haven’t been to Hawaii before,” Polian said. “We can’t let that be a distraction.”
The Wolf Pack lost seven games in a row at Hawaii to the Rainbow Warriors from 1968-2010 before winning the last time it traveled across the Pacific Ocean, 69-24, in 2012.
“As a player I don’t think we have to say much,” offensive lineman Kyle Roberts said.
“Coach Polian will take care of that. We just have to remember to not let the young guys go out on the beach for six hours.”
The Wolf Pack, 4-3 overall and 1-2 in the Mountain West, won at BYU last week 42-35 in a non-league game. The victory at Provo, Utah, ended a brief but frustrating two-game losing streak which saw comebacks against Boise State and Colorado State fall just short at home. The Pack rallied from a 15-point deficit (28-13 at halftime) to win at BYU.
“It was certainly a joyful locker room after the game,“ Polian said. “There is no doubt in my mind we needed that.”
“It felt incredible,“ Roberts said. “After those two losses (against Boise State and Colorado State), it felt like the end of the world, that our season was over.”
The Pack, which departed for Honolulu on Thursday, will resume its quest for a Mountain West championship against the Rainbow Warriors (2-5, 1-1). Hawaii is coming off a 20-10 Mountain West loss last week at San Diego State.
“We’re going there to win the game,” Polian said. “We’re not going just to hang out. This is a business trip for us. Why should it be any different than any other trip for us? We didn’t go sightseeing last week in Provo. We didn’t go sightseeing in Tallahassee (last year before facing Florida State). This is no different.”
“We’ve been there before,” Pack linebacker Jordan Dobrich said. “We’ve won there before. It’s just another game.”
The Wolf Pack’s goal of winning the West Division of the Mountain West and competing in the conference title game on Dec. 6 against the Mountain Division winner is very much alive. The Pack, 1-2 in league play, is looking up at the rest of the division right now but key West Division games against UNLV (1-2 in Mountain West games), Fresno State (2-2), San Diego State (3-1) and Hawaii (1-1) still remain on the schedule.
“Our goals are still in front of us,” Polian said.
Hawaii has gone 6-25 overall over the last two-plus seasons under current head coach Norm Chow. They are also just 2-16 in Mountain West play since Chow took over the program before the 2012 season.
Polian, though, tried to convince his team this week Hawaii is a team not to be taken lightly.
“The challenge is playing what I believe is a much improved team from a year ago even though their record doesn’t reflect it,” said Polian, whose Wolf Pack beat Hawaii 31-9 last season in Reno with freshman quarterback (Tyler Stewart) making his first career start because of an injury to starter Cody Fajardo. “The biggest distraction for us this week isn’t the beach. The biggest distraction is Hawaii. They are better than people think they are.”
Polian points to Hawaii’s narrow losses to Washington (17-16) and Oregon State (38-30) in the first two games of the season as evidence the Rainbow Warriors can compete at the highest level. Washington, though, was playing without its starting quarterback (Cyler Myles) because of a suspension and Oregon State jumped out to a 38-7 lead before taking its foot off the gas pedal. Hawaii also was playing those first two games with its starting tailback, Joey Iosefa, who has been hurt and suspended the last five weeks. He will not play today.
“Look how competitive they were against Washington and Oregon State,” Polian said.
“We don’t take anyone for granted.”
Polian also brings up Hawaii’s impressive record at home (71-32 since 2001) as a reason for concern on Saturday. Much of that success, though, was accomplished long before Chow took over after the 2011 season.
“Hawaii is a completely different team at home than they are on the road,” Polian said. “That’s not an opinion. It’s a fact. They are much better at home. They just play with a different energy at home.”
Hawaii is indeed better at home. The Rainbow Warriors have not won a game on the road since the middle of the 2011 season, dropping 16 in a row when they leave the island. Their losing streak on the road began with a 42-28 loss at Mackay Stadium on Nov. 12, 2011 against the Wolf Pack.
Hawaii, though, is also just 6-10 at home under Chow.
“There is no magic formula to win this game,” Dobrich said. “It’s going to come down to what we do. It’s not about what Hawaii is going to do. It’s about us executing our game plan.”
“We’re not going to take them lightly by any means,” Wolf Pack defensive lineman Brock Hekking said.
Hawaii is led on offense by 6-foot-1 quarterback Ikaika Woolsey. Woolsey has completed 104-of-213 passes this year for six touchdowns and four interceptions and has also run the ball 59 times for 114 yards and a score. The sophomore, who graduated from Salesian High in Richmond, Calif., is eighth among Mountain West quarterbacks at 165.6 passing yards a game. Fajardo is third at 240.9.
“I like the way he throws on the run,” said Dobrich of Woolsey.