HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Leaving the Rainbow Warrior football program to join the Nevada coaching staff back in 2012 after former Hawaii head coach Norm Chow didn't retain his services wasn't easy for Rolovich.
Nor was the decision to leave Nevada to return to the islands, a place he now considers home.
Fast forward to 2017, Rolovich is the man in charge of the Warriors. And this time, he'll be returning to Nevada not just to reminisce over the good times in Reno, but also to make a statement against the Wolfpack when his team takes the field this Saturday evening.
"It was a fun place to be," Rolovich said after practice on Tuesday about Nevada. "I enjoyed it there, If I go back in 20 years, I'll still have fond memories of the place … but a lot of my energy right now is on this football and this program."
After starting the 2017-2018 season 2-0, the Warriors have lost three straight games, including two blowout losses to the likes of UCLA and Colorado State and a heartbreaking overtime loss to Wyoming.
A Mountain West championship was the goal for many players heading into this season but standing at 0-2 in conference play, Rolovich hopes that his players have gotten over the hump heading into a must-win game against Nevada.
"We got a target on our back this year," Rolovich said. "People have a little more respect for Hawaii football than they did last year. People are approaching us differently, and we got to better. I said this in the Spring; we have got to be better than we were last year just to do what we did last year just because of the difference in how people receive us."
Coming off a 20-point loss of their own to Fresno State last weekend, Nevada (0-5) will bring everything it has on Saturday to its losing streak.
Rolovich said that this team can't be overlooked because they have nothing to loss. Especially since many of the players he once coached as Nevada's offensive coordinator are still there. And still have the same talent that Rolovich saw when recruiting them out of high school.
"I don't know if we're looking past Nevada very much. I know a lot of guys on that team. I've been around their receivers, I know there's some talent there," he said. "I know what they're capable of. "They probably got enough guys that have that core value system that we had when we left, They've won before, they've won bowl games a bunch of those kids … when somebody's done it before, they can do it again."
Emotions aside, this is just another football game for Rolovich. He isn't focused on beating Nevada just because it's his old stomping ground, he's focused on his team improving and building off every game.
"This team, our team, maybe needs to reevaluate what our plan is this year," Rolovich said. "I'm not sure we didn't get comfortable with last year's season."
Hawaii vs Nevada is set to kickoff this Saturday at 4:30 p.m. HT (7:30 p.m. in Nevada).