The rest of the state has another two days to wait before it gets to hear the thud of helmets crashing together, the grunts of offensive linemen fighting to hold their ground or the barking of a quarterback behind his center.

Jerry Graybeal and the Weber State Wildcats, however, get a two-day head start on most the country when they host Montana Tech Thursday night at 6 p.m."These guys have no problem hitting each other," Graybeal said of the Wildcats' readiness to play. "It's going to be good to see how they do against an opponent."

The Cats begin the Graybeal era after longtime coach Dave Arslenian moved up the road a bit to Utah State. Graybeal, however, is plenty familiar with WSU - having spent the past 16 years as an assistant coach at fellow Big Sky school Eastern Washington. He's also somewhat familiar with the Orediggers - a team that finished the 1997 season ranked fourth with a 10-2 record and played in the NAIA quarterfinals.

"I know coach (Bob) Green very well. He runs a very disciplined program," Graybeal said. "They always play hard, and we are going to impress that upon our players this week. They will be fundamentally and technically sound."

Despite being a smaller school from a smaller state playing at a lower level of competition, Graybeal is trying to convince his team not to take this game lightly.

"They don't beat themselves," he said.

Still, the Wildcats are almost assured of breaking in the new coach the right way. The last and only other time the two schools met, Weber rolled to a 47-7 victory in 1994.

Not only is the guy patrolling the sideline different in Ogden, several other changes will be noticable.

Playing in re-named Stewart Stadium, the Wildcats will don a new uniform design with white helmets and darker purple jerseys. The Cats will change up the defense considerably as Graybeal takes a strong role in coaching the defense, and the offense will see some changes, too.

No longer will the Wildcats be a run-only-if-necessary team. Senior Derek Poole has been promised more carries as Weber tries to control the ball a little longer and keep it out of the hands of the potent Big Sky offenses they will face.