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Coach Rolovich gets Warriors acclimated to face Wyoming

Updated: 
September 21, 2017 - 12:05am

During Tuesday’s football practice, Hawaii quarterback Dru Brown accepted head coach Nick Rolovich’s ice-bucket challenge.

“He had us putting our hand in (an ice bucket) for 10 seconds, and then try to throw,” Brown said of preparing for the anticipated chilly conditions for Saturday’s evening game against Wyoming in Laramie.

In the so-called “wet-ball drill,” Rolovich squirted cold water onto the football and the faces of players during 7-on-7 and team sessions. Rolovich said there is a possibility of rain on Saturday.

“I knew he was going to come out with something weird like that, trying to prepare us for it,” Brown said. “He’s a different dude. But he gets us ready. He likes to have fun with it. At the same time, I don’t know if the balls are going to be that wet. But if they are, we’ll be ready for it.”

Rolovich said inspiration came on Monday night. “When I was laying in bed, I said, ‘It’s time for wet-ball day,’” Rolovich said. “Boom. Cooler, six-shooter of squirt bottles, and then we roll.”

Rolovich wanted to paint a worst-case scenario for his players.

“There’s going to be rain,” Rolovich said. “There’s going to be cold rain, altitude, a good football (opponent). It’s the exact equation you want to start conference play. They ain’t gonna cancel the game.”

At 7,200 feet above sea level — as the sign at War Memorial Stadium reminds visiting teams — the thin air can be a breath-taking experience. But former UH coach Bob Wagner, who attended Tuesday’s practice, challenged the Warriors with an impassioned mind-over-matter speech. As defensive coordinator and then head coach, Wagner’s teams were 3-4 in games played in Laramie.

Through studies and a self-test, Wagner follows the belief each player’s body has a natural gauge, like a circuit breaker, where a shutdown will occur — fainting — if an oxygen debt is reached. “In 99.9 percent of the cases, it’s not going to hurt you,” Wagner said. “It doesn’t take long. You’ll come back to.”

Wagner said breathing will be more measured initially in a game, but a player needs to persevere. “You can fight through the discomfort,” Wagner said. “Nothing bad is going to happen to you. I would not encourage it if I thought it would be a health problem. It’s more of a mental toughness.”

Wagner said he would sponsor an award for any Warrior who plays to his limit.

“It’s a message,” Rolovich said of playing in high altitude. “You’re going to get through this. This is all mental right now. There are some science behind how you travel, how you eat, how you drink, all that stuff. You’re going to get gassed. When do you dig deep and get that extra drive going?”

Wagner said he once participated in an exercise-physiology class while studying at Ohio University. He was one of three students running on a treadmill while wearing air masks. One of the connecting tanks was filled with oxygen-aided air, the others with rarefied air. When told he was receiving oxygen-aided air Wagner said, “I felt better immediately. … My mind was saying, you’ve got the oxygen, you’ve got the better air.”

But Wagner actually was receiving rarefied air. He then nearly passed out. The point? “If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter,” Wagner said.

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