Mahalo for supporting Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Enjoy this free story!
In January, Hawaii head coach Todd Graham and his family will be handed the keys to a house that is completing an extensive renovation.
“It’s a house we found in the location we wanted,” said Graham, who was hired nearly 11 months ago.“‘Let’s build a special home here.’ We wanted to make it our home here.”
In planning the renovation, Graham recalled thinking, “we’re going to do it the right way and build it up right.”
It is the same approach he has endorsed in his first season at UH. While Graham’s teams improved dramatically in the first year of four previous head-coaching jobs, the Rainbow Warriors are 2-3 entering today’s game against 5-0 Nevada.
In these pandemic-restrictive times, Graham acknowledged, “I’m not surprised by where we’re at. We gave the last game away on special teams (with long returns setting up 21 Boise State points). But they showed tremendous progress. We’re building something special.”
Graham said the Warriors are embracing the culture of playing “smart, disciplined and tough.”
“We’re definitely changing the culture,” Graham said. “I’m very pleased with the progression we’re having. We wish we won three more games. But you build the culture, and the wins will come.”
For the second week in a row, the Warriors will face an opponent that is unbeaten in Mountain West play. Nevada also has the nation’s No. 4 passing offense (363.8 yards per game), led by quarterback Carson Strong, wideout Romeo Doubs, and an experienced offensive line. Doubs is averaging 41.7 yards per touchdown catch. The Wolf Pack have forced only three takeaways — two picks and a fumble recovery — but opponents are punting on 52.4% of drives. The Pack induced 21 three-and-outs on 63 possessions.
“They’re really playing at a different level than everybody else,” Graham said of the Wolf Pack. “They’re definitely at the top (at) 5-0. We have to come out and play our best game. I’m excited for the opportunity to go against somebody who sits at the very top.”
Across the Aloha Stadium field will be Nevada head coach Jay Norvell, who was the pass-game coordinator on Graham’s 2016 staff at Arizona State.
“I really enjoyed my time with Coach Graham and the coaches there at ASU,” Norvell said.
Norvell said he picked up some coaching advice from Graham, including the Wolf Pack walk. The day before each game, the Pack walk the length of the field. The first 50 yards, players think of the past, the next 50 are spent visualizing the upcoming game. Graham has implemented a similar walk for the Warriors.
“I thought it was perfect to take that and bring that here to Nevada, and incorporate our alumni and boosters,” Norvell said. “That was one of Coach Graham’s traditions.”
Graham recalled the day he hired Norvell.
“I can remember sitting at the hotel and visiting with him,” Graham said. “I was so impressed with him as a person. He embraced everything we were about — character, discipline, tough. … He came to us as a very experienced coach, and did a great job with us.”
Graham said their families remain close. “I think the world of him,” Graham said.