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Wildcats still trying to put it together

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Weber State coach Jerry Graybeal says his Wildcats are like a car that's not hitting on all cylinders. Some things run smooth, while others don't.

After season-opening losses to Southern Utah (28-21) and Montana State (32-17), Graybeal has spent plenty of time diagnosing and pinpointing Weber State's problems.

"I'm concerned that our returning players are not playing up to their potential," said Graybeal. "That's the thing that is discouraging me right now."

The solution? Intensifying practices and situational drills. Graybeal is hopeful it'll address his team's trouble spots and pay off in today's game at Eastern Washington.

"That's been our major emphasis," said Graybeal.

The Wildcats, he added, gained extra practice hours after last week's game with Eastern Oregon was canceled. They used the time to focus on self-improvement. A two-whistle drill, featuring plays from scrimmage, was added to their workout schedule. Players are expected to ignore a first whistle that marks the ball and continue their pursuits until Graybeal says so.

Junior cornerback Sylvester Daniels admits the drill has made the Wildcats a bit ornery. However, he's confident it'll pay dividends during games.

"I think it's helping us out a lot," said Daniels. "We have been kind of lax out there, and we haven't been focusing up the way we should be. The drills have made us a little tougher."

The Wildcats will need to be against the 18th-ranked Eagles. Eastern Washington (1-0) has talent on both sides of the ball.

Quarterback Fred Salanoa, a former Snow College star, earned national Div. I-AA Player of the Week honors by throwing for 367 yards and four touchdowns in EWU's 35-17 win at Connecticut on Sept. 8. On defense, junior linebacker Adam Zeiger earned conference accolades after making 11 tackles (six unassisted) in the contest.

Graybeal acknowledges the Wildcats are in for a stern test. And that's exactly what EWU coach Paul Wulff is expecting.

"We really have to get our players focused to play a Weber State team that is going to get better each week," he said. "It's going to be a great challenge."

Junior quarterback Tyler Gladwell, who missed the Montana State game with the flu, is expected to reclaim his starting job as the Wildcats seek to improve on their second-half woes. Weber State has been outscored 33-7 over the third and fourth quarters this season. Defensively, the Wildcats have given up an average of 316.5 yards rushing.

"Last week's events weighed heavily on all our minds, but I think we are ready to get back to normal day life," Graybeal explained. "We had some intense practices last week, and I expect some more of them this week. We need to find out who really wants to pay the price to play."

GAME NOTES: This is the 20th meeting between the Wildcats and Eagles. Weber State leads the all-time series 10-9 . . . Eastern Washington won last year's game 27-24 in overtime at Stewart Stadium . . . Head coaches Graybeal and Wulff worked together as EWU assistants from 1993-97 . . . This is the Eagles' home opener.


2:05 p.m., Woodward Stadium (Cheney, Wash.)

TV: None

Radio: KLO, 1430 AM (Ogden)


E-mail: dirk@desnews.com