16 years later, Rolovich and staff use historic loss to FCS opponent as cautionary tale

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Nick Rolovich vs Portland State in 2000_174146

Since 1978, when the NCAA was split into two levels, Division 1-A/FBS and Division 1-AA/FCS, the University of Hawaii football team has been nearly perfect against FCS or D1-AA opponents, owning a record of 21-1.

So with Ohio Valley Conference member UT Martin coming to town this weekend, one would imagine that overlooking a perceived lower-level foe would be an issue. However, that is certainly not the case with the ‘Bows, since that one loss came in the UH football debut for current head coach Nick Rolovich.

The then-junior quarterback who won the starting QB job ahead of true freshman Timmy Chang, opened the 2000 season with teammates slot back Craig Stutzmann (current QB Coach), center Brian Smith (current offensive coordinator), cornerback Abraham Elimimian (current defensive backs coach), and defensive coordinator both then and now, Kevin Lempa, with a stunning 45-20 loss to Portland State.

“That’s not something to be proud of, you know,” said Stutzmann. “We talk about all the good times we had and I put that one out of my memory for life. It’s a good life lesson for all of us, all joking aside. If we don’t take care of the football, and we don’t do the things we were coached and taught to do, then we’re going to lose the game.”

The loss to the Vikings, a program that Stutzmann would end up making his collegiate coaching debut with in 2009, was especially stunning since it came after UH went 9-4 with an Oahu Bowl victory over Oregon State to complete the greatest single season turnaround in NCAA history, going from 0-12 in 1998.

“Well that game against Portland State man, the fans showed up, 45-plus thousand fans and we thought that we were just going to beat the daylights out of Portland State and that didn’t happen, but I think this year we got to be focused. They’re going to come in here and play hard, because they think they can beat us. For us, we’ve got to match and surpass their intensity and we have the coaches, we have the players. It’s just about doing it in front of our fans,” said Elimimian.

Rolovich and the rest of the Warriors would more than make up for the upset loss as Rolo, who was a two-year QB for Hawaii, led the team to a 9-3 record in 2001, leading the Warriors to an upset of their own over previously unbeaten and No. 9 BYU in the 2001 season finale, 72-45, with 543 yards and eight touchdowns. As a senior that season, he ranked 10th nationally in passing efficiency with a 150.5 rating and broke 19 school passing and eight total offense records. He ended his college career with three consecutive 500-yard passing games, engineering at least 52 points each outing.

However, that loss to Portland State will forever serve as a reminder, both good and bad, of what is possible.

“You can draw from that game and you can draw from last weekend, where FCS opponents beat plenty of FBS opponents, and a bunch gave guys games. I think there’s good football being played at the FCS level and right now there is no one that we can take lightly,” said Rolovich.

UT Martin last Thursday opened their season with a loss at Cincinnati, 28-7, a game that the Skyhawks led 7-6 in the third quarter.

Who: Hawaii (0-2) vs. UT Martin (0-1)

When: Saturday, Sept. 10, 2016

Time: 6:00 p.m. HT

Where: Honolulu, O’ahu; Aloha Stadium (50,000)

Television: Televised live locally and statewide on Oceanic Pay-Per-View (Digital Ch. 255 and HD Ch. 1255) and Hawaiian Telcom Pay-Per-View (Ch. 969), with Robert Kekaula (play-by-play), Rich Miano (analyst) and Scott Robbs (sidelines).

Radio: ESPN 1420 AM will carry the game live with Bobby Curran (play-by-play) and John Veneri (analyst). Chris Hart and Gary Dickman host the “Countdown To Kickoff” beginning at 4:00 p.m. HT, and also the halftime show. Neighbor islands can listen live on KNUI on Maui, KHLO in Hilo, KKON in Kona, KTOH on Kaua’i, and KNWJ in Pago Pago, American Samoa.Live Audio: ESPN1420am.com

Live Video: NoneLive Stats: StatBroadcast

Series Information: First meeting.

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