OGDEN — Weber State’s offense lined up just outside the goal line at Stewart Stadium with their backs to the end zone, setting up to run through multiple plays and sets.
Just a few feet behind the end line were two large speakers blaring crowd noise directly at the players, surely rattling around in their helmets.
There’s no way to truly simulate a 25,000-fan, sell-out crowd at Montana’s Washington-Grizzly Stadium, as is expected in Weber State’s trip to play the Griz on Saturday, but it still helps the players learn how to communicate and play when they can’t hear.
“I think it was one of the most enjoyable practices because you kind of have goosebumps with how loud it was and getting ready for this game,” sophomore receiver Ty MacPherson said.
Weber State last played in Missoula in 2015, a game it won in front of 25,500 fans when Josh Kealamakia hit a 27-yard field goal in overtime to stun a Grizzlies team that went on to win a playoff game.
But no current Wildcats played in that game. Washington-Grizzly provides a setting and a crowd unlike most across FCS football: a large, open-air, four-sided stadium with grandstands up against the field and no track to provide a buffer between the crowd and the field.
How does Weber State plan to handle it?
“We just need to play our game. We can’t be focused on extra curricular activities, the noise, the fans, them being a great defense,” junior receiver David Ames said. “We just want to do the stuff we’ve done the last five weeks and make them stop us. That’s pretty much what it’s going to come down to is if we do the things well that we do well.”
MacPherson said not much would change except the need for crisp execution.
“More poise, like coach (Jay) Hill always says,” MacPherson said. “It’s going to be loud, there’s going to be some things that we’re going to have to have tough skin, they’re going to say some things. But that just makes it more fun.”
While Weber State is preparing for it, Hill isn’t overemphasizing it.
“It’s college football. You’ve got to be ready to go no matter what the atmosphere, no matter what the stadium,” Hill said. “We’ve played in big stadiums. We played Cal, we played at the University of Utah, this year we played at San Diego State with 40,000 fans there. You’ve got to be ready to go no matter what the atmosphere, no matter where you’re at.”