Experiencing their worst losing streak under head coach Nick Rolovich, the Rainbow Warriors are looking to change the course of their season tomorrow night against San Jose State at Aloha Stadium.
Not only is tomorrow night a must-win for the Warriors (2-4, 0-3 MWC), it’s also the team’s annual Homecoming game. The Spartans (1-6, 0-3 MWC) are also winless in conference play, but will be looking to spoil Hawaii’s festivities with an upset.
“They haven’t had the success they want, but neither have we the last month,” Rolovich said earlier this week after practice. “Really, it’s about us. I know (San Jose State) want to go fast on offense, they’re pretty physical on defense and I know their yards and points aren’t where they want it to be, but that’s not stopping them from playing hard … we just got to go out and make plays, one play at a time.”
The Warriors have not won a Homecoming fixture since 2011, and are 37-29-1 all-time in Homecoming games. Led by running back Diocemy Saint Juste, who is averaging 148.7 rushing yards per game, Hawaii is looking to break their Homecoming curse.
Saint Juste continues to rack up the yards for the Warriors, but is also gradually moving up the program’s all-time rushing leaderboards. If Saint Juste rushes for 46 yards tomorrow, he will move past Michael Carter into the No. 2 spot on the Warriors all-time career rushing list.
Speaking of Carter, he and many former Warriors will be in attendance during Saturday’s game, as the program will honor the 25th anniversary of the 1992 Holiday Bowl team during halftime.
With so many of the program’s past legends watching, Rolovich wants his team to go out and play not just for their themselves, but also to honor those who paved the way for the team’s past successes.
“It should be important for these guys to play well in front of the guys who played before them,” Rolovich said. “And I think it is. We’ve had RJ (Hollis) come out today, just getting texts from different guys that are still very much behind this football team. When you play here, you’re always rooting for this program. And the alumni support has been great, even in hard times. It’s always good to win a bowl game -- everyone’s happy, everyone’s proud of you -- but now, the message is a little different. Now, it’s time they get in and show that toughness of what it means to be a warrior.”
Although the Spartans are considered to be the underdogs against the Warriors, Rolovich isn’t overlooking them.
“I see them going through a tougher schedule than us,” he said. “They’re willing to take risks. I see them very similar to how we were last year as far as trying to manufacture some juice; some energy.”
Playing against Hawaii for the first time, San Jose State’s first-year head coach Brent Brennan will be returning to the islands after serving as a graduate assistant at UH in 1998. He is also a cousin of former Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan.
“I know their coach very well, he’s a good friend of mine,” Rolovich said. “And I know he’s an energy guy.”
Energy, focus and discipline have been stressed throughout the past month to get the team back on track. But Warriors quarterback Dru Brown knows that battling adversity will make this team better in the long run.
“I think we are going through this for a reason. It’s tough, and anyone who says it’s not tough is probably lying to you,” Brown said. “But there’s a reason for it and I do think that once we break through this, there’s gonna be some great things that are happening. And I do think that once one thing positive happens, it’s gonna be a snowball effect and we can move on from there.”
Needing to win the majority of their games left on the schedule to be bowl eligible, the pressure is mounting for Brown and his team to get out of the funk they’re in. The team owes it to their senior players, he said.
“We want to send them out right,” Brown said. “They’ve been through so much here with the last staff and overcoming all of last year, it’s only right to send them off with a postseason win. But at this point, we’re kind of taking it one game at a time, week by week just trying to win. That’s all we’re thinking right now, just beating San Jose (State).”
Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. HT at Aloha Stadium.
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