There's an added sense of urgency around the University of Hawaii football team as the Rainbow Warriors prepare to head to Las Vegas and take on UNLV this weekend.
As the 'Bows hope to earn their second consecutive postseason berth, the pressure is mounting in their final stretch of games. In order to even be considered for a bowl berth, the Rainbow Warriors need to win three of their final four games.
That means they're now approaching every game as a must-win.
"We have to make things work, and we have to make things work today," said junior receiver Dylan Collie. "We don't have time to sit around and lapse around and think about the past and think about who's not here and who is."
Even with their long term goals in mind, the 'Bows say they know they must take things one step at a time. They can take a first step in the right direction this weekend in Sin City, where Hawaii will face a UNLV team that has just two wins in conference play so far this season.
"I think if Fresno had that (UNLV) game back, I think that they would say that they missed some opportunities," said head coach Nick Rolovich, of UNLV's most recent opponent. "UNLV is very physical upfront, a little bit different than San Diego. But offensively, they have a lot of different styles with the quarterbacks. So depending on who plays it poses a different problem for our defense."
The Rebels have three quarterbacks to choose from heading into Saturday's match-up. Johnny Stanton led them to victory over the Bulldogs last Saturday, while previous starting QB Armani Rodgers was out with a head injury. Rodgers could make his return against Hawaii this week.
If needed, quarterback, Kurt Palandech, who made three starts last season, could also step in.
All three quarterbacks are capable of playing different styles. Rodgers and Palandech have often shown flashes of what they can do with their feet, and Stanton boasts a big arm. With the potential of facing any of the three, Hawaii's defense is locked-in and focused on preparing for whatever might come their way.
"You got to practice efficienty," said Rolovich about how the defense plans to gear up for the three QBs. "That's part of the game defensively. You can't practice everything. You have to make sure your rules are sound and you're prepared for anything."
"They're pretty athletic," added senior defensive end David Manoa. "So we're just trying to prepare ourselves for some of the reactions we'll get come Saturday. But, yea kind of just be on alert for the possibility that we'll be running around a lot."
This year there's also a new trophy at stake in the match-up. On Tuesday the Nine Island Showdown trophy was unveiled. The golden pineapple will be awarded to the winner of each year's game.
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