OGDEN — Sometime during Weber State's football practice Thursday, a commercial airliner flew past as it gained altitude after taking off from Salt Lake International.
Curious to see who else was watching it, football coach Jerry Graybeal looked around and noticed more than half of his team watching the plane.
That's when Graybeal realized that the healing process following Tuesday's terrorist attacks on American soil has yet to begin.
"It's difficult, very difficult," said Graybeal, who explained that the Big Sky Conference moratorium on all athletic activities Friday and Saturday (including today's game with Eastern Oregon) was a consensus decision made by league and school officials. "I think it's something that's been looming. So obviously it was something that needed to be addressed."
Throughout the crisis, Weber State coaches and players have frequently stopped by a team meeting room to watch ongoing television coverage of the terrorist attacks. In an effort to allow players and staff time to mourn during the national crisis, Graybeal has given everyone the weekend off.
The Wildcats will begin preparations for a Sept. 22 game at Eastern Washington on Monday.
OFF THE FIELD: With Eastern Oregon logistically unable to reschedule today's cancelled game any time this season, Weber State athletic director John Johnson is busy looking for an opponent to fill the void. He's hoping to find a team willing to visit Stewart Stadium on Oct. 6 when the Wildcats were supposed to have a bye.
The only other possible date is Nov. 24 — the day the Div. I-AA playoffs are scheduled to begin. Many programs across the country are expected to ask the NCAA to push postseason play back one week to give teams a chance to reschedule this week's lost games.
Johnson, who joined his colleagues in supporting the decision not to play this week, hopes to have the scheduling matter resolved in the next week.
ON THE FIELD: With the Wildcats off to an 0-2 start, Graybeal has questioned his team's toughness. So much so, he added, that part of Tuesday's practice was devoted to the subject. The Wildcats went through three-on-three drills designed to accentuate tough play.
Graybeal is hoping it'll help his team reverse three problem areas — offense, run defense and second-half woes.
Offensively, he'd like to see his team re-establish its identity. Graybeal says his team has been soft up front. The evidence? Weber State has the Big Sky Conference's worst per play average at 4.4 yards.
Rushing defense is another low spot. In losses to Southern Utah and Montana State, the Wildcats surrendered a combined 633 yards on the ground.
Graybeal's other area of immediate concern is starting fast and finishing slow. The Wildcats have been outscored 33-7 in the second half this season and an alarming 19-0 in the fourth quarter.