Paul Rhoads feels that Saturday’s game has special importance.
“I probably place more emphasis on it (the opener) than most coaches,” Rhoads said. “A lot of guys don’t want to do that (because) there are 11 more games to play.”
Rhoads said that losing in the first game a year ago had an impact the following two weeks. Part of that fallout, of course, was due to first-game injuries to Sam Richardson and Tom Farniok.
The head coach feels his team is intent on getting off to a good start Saturday night, but that desire emerged months ago.
“That (attitude) hasn’t been building for just a few days,” Rhoads said of his club’s excitement. “That’s been building for a long time. I’d go back and say it was developing in November and December as we finished off the season (with two wins) and went into off-season.”
In his career, Rhoads has been on college coaching staffs that went to eight bowl games. Each of those bowl teams won its first game of the year. That underlines the importance of the opener for a team with bowl aspirations.
Rhoads’ first game as a college head coach came against North Dakota State. The Cyclones defeated the Bison and advanced to a bowl. The sixth-year head coach is looking to repeat that script.