September 27, 2001 11:00 pm

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Three weeks removed from their last game action, the Eastern Oregon Mountaineers have had plenty of time to regroup and prepare for Saturdays game against Montana Tech.

Terrorist attacks canceled the game Sept. 15 against Weber State, and Eastern had a scheduled bye Saturday. The team was prepared for the bye, but not for the cancellation.

We all got kind of disoriented in terms of practice, coach Rob Cushman said. We had planned for the bye, but it threw everybody out of whack.

The down time did allow Eastern (0-2) to emphasize fundamentals. Last week, the team avoided a lot of contact in practice, but Eastern tried to simulate more game action this week.

We hit a little bit more than a normal game week, Cushman said. Youve got to get some speed and contact in practice.

The break has allowed quarterback Mark Hanrahan to work on the passing game, a sore spot in the two losses that seem so long ago. Hanrahan is averaging 60 yards passing per game with 12 total receptions.

Marks really benefited from the two weeks off and practiced really well, Cushman said.

The break also allowed backup quarterback Ruben Villa to improve an injured knee. Villa will spell Hanrahan at times during Saturdays game.

Weve got to get him in the game. Now, how much? We dont know, Cushman said.

Eastern hasnt had problems running the ball. Hanrahan leads the team with 207 yards rushing, and Kris Davidson has gained 122 yards.

Montana Tech was one of two teams Eastern beat a year ago, but the Orediggers have an advantage Saturday in that the game will be their sixth of the season. Montana Tech (3-2) is ranked 21st in the NAIA after a 17-10 upset Saturday over then-No. 3 Carroll. Their offense is led by running back Jay LeProwse, who ran for 123 yards on 33 carries against Carroll and caught a pass for a touchdown.

Cushman looks at the remainder of his teams schedule as a new opportunity.

Were starting over. Were hungry to play and (excited) that we had a chance to get better.