Playing with his back against the wall is not an ideal situation for Rainbow Warrior quarterback Dru Brown. But even though the pressure is mounting for the Warriors to win, he feels that his team plays the best when all the doubters and naysayers begin to voice their opinions.
“I kind of feel that we play better with our backs against the wall, and that’s not necessarily something you want to take pride in because I think we could have a few wins under our belt if we would have started a little quicker,” Brown said earlier this week after practice.
He’s not wrong either. In most of their losses this season, the Warriors have been their own worst enemy. With penalties, blown coverages and ill-timed dropped passes, the Warriors know all they have to do is play mistake-free football to beat Fresno State this weekend.
But that’s easier said than done.
“We need to make the most of our possessions,” Brown said. “It’s not really a back-and-forth game, it’s a time/possession kind of game. If we can come out and just be consistent and execute from the jump, we won’t put our defense in a hole.”
Scoring early and often is the challenge facing Brown and his offense, as they take on the Bulldogs defense, a unit that ranks No. 16 in the nation in total defense.
“They do a good job at coaching their guys to do their job. I think not many times you see a busted coverage or missed gap - they’re very sound in what they do,” Brown said. “So that’s kind of something we’re gonna have to be ready for. We’re not going to get those easy plays, we’re gonna have to have consistent execution every drive.”
Not only is this a must-win game for the Warriors to keep their bowl dreams alive this season, it’s also one of the program’s most historic rivalries.
“If you go in the history of this program, the rivalry, the games we’ve had against Fresno State have always been memorable games and there’s no reason they should expect anything different this week,” said Warrior head coach Nick Rolovich.
The teams will meet for the 50th time this Saturday, with the Bulldogs holding a 26-22-1 edge over the Warriors, although Hawaii owns a 14-13 record over Fresno State in games played in Honolulu.
To keep this historic rivalry alive, Rolovich needs his players to be at their best.
“(We) obviously need to execute better,” Rolovich said. “I thought we had opportunities in the first quarter (against UNLV), the first play of the game we were hoping that we had a chance to get a touchdown and we just didn’t get it down. We had some dropped balls but this team got some fight in it, they hung in there.”
But more so than just relying on his offense, Rolovich has been impressed with his defense over recent weeks and the enrgy they’ve brough to the rpactice field.
“They’re playing with really good energy, they’re playing together,” he said. “They got a renewed sense of pride, I think. I think maybe with John Ursua going down, Tui Unga going down, being pretty thin on the offensive line, I think they took it upon themselves to be as great as they can and take a little more responsibility.”
As for what the Bulldogs brings to the table when they have the ball on offense, Rolovich said that they have a lot of weapons in their arsenal.
“I think they’re pretty good on offense … they’re very effective,” he said. “Their coordinator does a good job, tweaks it every week. They have good athletes, multiple coaches in the conference have said they got great receivers. Obviously, the running backs: They got three of them that can play, they have been tough to deal with and they’ve been playing pretty strong upfront.”
The Warriors will play host to the Bulldogs tomorrow night at Aloha Stadium. Kickoff is set for 6 p.m. HT.
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