University of Wyoming football coach Dana Dimel learned his trade at Kansas State, which went from the dregs of the Big 12 to being a national power in just a few years.

K-State went from 1-10 in Dimel's first year there as an assistant coach in 1989 to 7-4 in '91 to 9-2-1 and 18th in the USA Today/CNN coaches' poll in 1993 to 10-2 and sixth in 1995.Dimel's in his second season in windswept Laramie, where fans and players can be as nasty as the weather. As soon as he was hired, he divulged visions of making the Cowboys into the next K-State and of eventually making the Top 10.

He began last season as the NCAA Division I-A's youngest head coach at 34. In his first-ever game as a head coach, Wyoming nearly upset ninth-ranked Ohio State. The Cowboys finished '97 at 8-5, losing three times in the final minute.

Two weeks ago, Dimel's Cowboys went to Athens and lost 16-9 to 12th-ranked Georgia, shutting out the Bulldogs in the second half. Last week, they hosted the NCAA's No. 2 offense, Louisiana Tech, whose receiver (Troy Edwards) gained 405 yards at Nebraska two weeks ago. They held the Bulldogs to 19 points and Edwards to 79 yards. The Bulldogs were inside the 10- yard line eight times and scored only 19 points in the 31-19 win that left Wyoming 2-1.

The 'Pokes have given up just 13 points in three second halves, six in fourth quarters in '98.

Now it's the Utes' turn against this snarling defense that crunches third-down plays 81 percent of the time and is said to be drooling at the possibilities presented by Utah's mistake-prone offense. It's the Cowboys' WAC opener. The front seven is superb. Linebacker Brian Brown is eighth on UW's career tackles list (261), and boundary corner Robbie Duncan led the NCAA in '97 in passes broken up .