Last week, his Colorado State football team (3-4 overall, 1-1 Mountain West) came up with a victory, the seventh of McElwain's tenure with the Rams. It also means today's game at Hawaii (10 p.m.) is the seventh opportunity for one of his teams to start a win streak.
"Wow. That's a novel idea," McElwain said after Wednesday's practice. "That's a novel concept.
"Wow. I've fallen a long ways guys. I would have never thought I'd have to answer that question."
Colorado State has taken steps forward before, just never two in a row, at least not in the win column. Maybe a win followed by a mythical moral victory. Or vice versa. But moral victories don't add up to bowl games or keep coaches employed for the long haul.
Wins do. Win streaks are better.
No question, last week's Border War victory -- a 52-22 complete domination of a rival -- was a big step. It came on the road, too, a new accomplishment for the Rams under McElwain. This week, CSU cannot only win a second straight game, but win one after a plane flight and be able to call the result a win streak.
"That's the next step," McElwain said. "We've got to string some wins, and now being able to do it back to back on the road is big for the development of where we're at and really for this program."
Hawaii is winless (0-6), but it's not as if Colorado State can look at the Rainbow Warriors as a cupcake.
Hawaii, playing on homecoming, is coming off a bye week and talking as if they're sick of past performance and looking for change themselves.
"Everyone in the locker room believes that we can turn this thing around," linebacker Art Laurel said. "We just have to keep grinding this week, watching film, get in our playbooks and know what's going on on the field."
McElwain points out time and time again, the team's margin for error is razor-thin, and what the Warriors do matches up with something the Rams have not done.
Cover the deep ball extremely well.
Hawaii likes to throw deep, and it does it without conscious. Double-coverage is not a deterrent, with the feeling the now-healthy Billy Ray Stutzmann and Chris Gant will go up and make plays, or at least help create movement of the chains.
The Rams have given up eight scoring passes of 48 yards or longer this year, and the fact the Warriors throw deep without a care is something McElwain admits is scary.
"They don't worry about it," he said. "You watch the end of the third and fourth quarter of the Fresno game, they just go up and make plays. That's been an Achilles' heel for us, and they're getting (pass interference calls), which are getting them first downs and moving it down field. Playing the ball in the air is something we work on all the time, but it's a premium against a team like this."
The availability of defensive back Shaq Bell, who is big in the dime coverage the Rams figure to play a lot of in the game, is still up in the air. That will move Jasen Oden, who McElwain has been very impressed with, into a bigger role.
Hawaii still has questions at quarterback, as Taylor Graham, who started (and struggled) the first three games, is back healthy. Sean Schroeder, who has thrown for 1,137 yards and 11 touchdowns in Graham's absence, has given the Warriors life at times. He's had to, because the running game has generated just 495 yards in six games.
But the Rams, who feel they now have some life after last week's win at Wyoming, are looking at moving forward themselves. The one step at a time business is something the Rams would like to put in the past.
"This year, it's time to move on, move forward and beat Hawaii," linebacker Max Morgan said.