Hawaii’s home game Saturday against Nevada is a crucial one for the Rainbow Warriors, who face a challenging back-loaded remainder of their schedule. UH (6-2, 3-0 Mountain West) seeks to remain unbeaten in conference play and gets another chance to clinch bowl eligibility coming off last week’s 49-23 loss at BYU.
The Hawaii cornerbacks and safeties figures to be tested against the Wolf Pack (3-4, 1-2), who run the pass-heavy Air Raid offense.
Sophomore corner Eugene Ford has 18 tackles, an interception and two pass breakups this season. The Venice, Calif., native gave Warrior World some of his time after Wednesday’s morning practice, talking topics including the state of the team coming off the BYU game; what he expects vs. Nevada; his key pass break-up against Wyoming; and his passion for community service.
Q: How do you feel about where things are at for your team, generally speaking?
A: You know, we’ve had our ups and downs, but more ups than usual. We came together throughout the season and we’ve started to grow each and every game, taking it one game at a time. It’s just good to see everyone re-focusing. We may have played bad (or) we won, but come back Monday and start a new week. So I like to see the guys come together each and every week. We’re fighting, so it’s looking good.
Q: On last week specifically, what it was it like trying to shake the BYU loss?
A: We went in with a game plan, of course. We do every week. Now it’s all about executing. We didn’t execute enough. After the game, all the guys knew what we had to do. And knew the next week, we’re going to have to learn from our mistakes, because that’s how great teams become something special, is learn from mistakes and regain that focus once again. So, we really didn’t think too much on it, really didn’t beat ourselves up. Of course we were going to be upset, but we didn’t want to put ourselves down enough to where we come back the following week and not (be ready). We came back and we locked in for this week, and worry about the next team.
Q: About that next team, what are you expecting from this weekend’s opponent, Nevada? You have a second chance to clinch bowl eligibility, this time at home. What do you have to be mindful of?
A: Just the little mistakes. Knowing our job, knowing our assignments, what to do in certain situations. Things may change, and they may look at some things we might be considered week in, and look at our strengths and game plan (that). We kind of have to fix our mistakes we made in the past to make sure, if they game plan for that, we come back stronger.
Q: This Nevada team is known for slinging the ball, right? A pass-heavy, “Air Raid”-type offense. What kind of challenge is that for a guy in your position in the secondary?
A: Oh man, opportunities for interceptions. Pick-6. As cornerbacks and safeties, we all think about picks, turnovers. Tips and overthrows. Making plays on the ball. So, we know they like to put the ball in the air, and we know (quaterback Ty Gangi) is known for throwing interceptions (13 TDs, 7 INT). So why not go for it? Attack him. Making sure that whenever he throws the ball, he’s going to regret it.
Q: What do you remember of the play late in the Wyoming game a couple weeks ago, when the Cowboys tried to go to the end zone on their final drive and you had a pass break-up?
A: I remember it like the back of my hand. You know, because it took me back to my freshman year. Being real fresh to this position at cornerback, never playing cornerback, last year being my first year playing it, they tried me on that last play, the first game (last year in Laramie), and they were successful in that. (This time) I seen (the receiver’s) eyes was getting bigger, and I knew the ball was coming. I knew I had to make a play for the team. That was to top it all off.
Q: Wow, so it was the same opponent last year that tried it on you?
A: Yeah. It was Wyoming. That was my first start. I had to grow from that. Learn from mistakes, grow off of it. But this year is a different year, different dog out there, trying to help the team.
Q: I just heard Stephen Tsai ask you about growing your hair out. How long has that been going?
A: I told him I said I was going to grow my hair out in January, and I’ve tried to stick with it throughout the year. So, it’s getting pretty long. Gotta keep it tamed sometimes. But yeah, that’s something I’m trying to do.
Q: So you’re gonna keep it going for the entire season?
A: For the entire season, yeah. I might cut it at the end of the year, I might not, depending on how it is, but yeah, that’s something I’m doing.
Q: On the subject of Farrington High’s Friends program here at practice today, I understand you’re a guy who does his share of community service. What are some things that you’ve done?
A: Oh man. You know, in the spring, I’ve done readings for elementary (schools), kindergarten. Showing up to schools with some of the teammates with our jerseys. Talking to the kids, because sometimes kids don’t have the opportunity to do what we’re doing. It’s bigger than us, as I look at it. I’ve been doing community service since high school. It’s something I’ve been doing, working with special needs elementary and middle school kids when I was in high school. And, it’s something I just kind of fell in love with, to see the joy on kids’ faces. It’s a pleasing feeling for me.
Q: Do you remember the first one of those you did and what got you to go out there?
A: Yeah, it was actually a foundation called Prime Time. I was working with special needs (kids) and playing sports with them. I played basketball with them. We had our helpers playing basketball on the court with the special needs kids. Then the kids really loved it, and it was actually fun for me, you know, growing with them. We played in championship basketball games. … Some of them were 14, 15. Ninth or 10th grade. It was my senior year (at University High School in Los Angeles). That right there, and I knew when I got the opportunity to work at the Special Olympics here, I was like, ‘oh yeah, this is another opportunity for me to step up and do something different like that.’
Q: When was that?
A: This was last spring. I was helping pass out the rewards and everything. Talking to them. Socializing with them as they were doing their events.
Q: What’s your major, by the way?
A: Occupational therapy.
Q: After your football-playing days are done, what do you see yourself getting into?
A: Working in the medical field, and outside of that, doing some counseling with the younger kids. Something I see myself doing and loving.
Q: So something along the lines of what we were just talking about?
A: Exactly, yeah. Most definitely.