For most, the goose egg in the win column paints Hawaii as an easy target. Combine that with likely frosty conditions at Romney Stadium and it’s easy to imagine Utah State stampeding over the sun-soaked Rainbow Warriors.
USU coach Matt Wells, however, doesn’t deal in records. He watches film, which has told him Hawaii doesn’t lie down for anyone.
Hawaii at Utah StateSaturday, 2 p.m.
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So don’t expect anyone in Logan to be looking ahead of this Saturday’s game — Wells has already addressed it with his players.
" I told them last night: ‘You’ve got Hawaii, and you’ve got school,’" he said. "‘Reduce the drama in your life. Get the other stuff out of your life. It’s not real hard.’"
The Aggies (4-4, 3-1) are coming off a bye that "was just what the doctor ordered," Wells said at his Monday news conference. The coaching staff gave most of the two-deep roster a week off from contact to recover from a bruising first segment to the season.
The team returns to action this weekend at home, with the Mountain West’s last-place team in Hawaii (0-7, 0-3).
But the Rainbow Warriors have been plenty close to a win in recent weeks, falling by double digits only once in their past four games.
They battled Fresno State down to the wire and came two points short of beating UNLV. This past week against Colorado State, they were a dropped pass away from being able to tie it up. In the fourth quarter, Hawaii has outscored opponents 65-34. Wells takes that stat seriously.
"The last four weeks, it’s been four close games in the league," he said. "I expect them to come in and be very well-prepared. I expect them to come in and play very, very hard. We’re going to have to match that intensity from our end."
Still hunting for bowl eligibility, Utah State isn’t ready to take anyone lightly. A bye week won’t be enough to bring back four offensive starters who have been lost for the season.
The Aggies thrived in their last game behind a powerful rushing attack and the steady hand of freshman quarterback Darell Garretson. But at .500, Utah State still is hunting for consistency from its retooled offensive attack.
Defense also will be a focus against a Hawaii team that loves to throw the ball. The Rainbow Warriors don’t run the ball well but their passing attack ranks 21st in the nation. And although coach Norm Chow hasn’t won a game this year, there’s little doubt he knows how to sculpt a passing attack.
It should be a challenge for Utah State, which allowed Boise State’s Joe Southwick to pass all over the defense in the team’s last loss. Wells hopes the bye did the secondary some good.
"That will be put to the test on Saturday," he said. "We’re going right from a run-heavy team in New Mexico to a throw-it-every-down team in Hawaii. The jury’s still out on our back end. So we’ll see."
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