UCLA and Utah remain hopeful they can play Saturday, but Utes roster “decimated” by coronavirus fallout – Press Enterprise
As of Monday, the UCLA football team is scheduled to take on Utah on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, but how the week plays out will determine whether or not the two teams actually meet.
Utah’s football game against Arizona was canceled last weekend due to multiple positive coronavirus tests from Utes players and some staff. And through contact tracing, it led to more players being unavailable due to quarantine and the game was canceled.
UCLA was originally scheduled to play Utah this Friday, but the game was pushed back until Saturday to give Utah an extra day to prepare.
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan released a statement saying there were no additional positive tests of players on Saturday and Sunday, and that the team remained hopeful the game can be played this weekend.
But exactly how how many players have tested positive or how many are impacted due to being quarantined is not known.
Per Pac-12 guidelines, Utah must meet the 53-scholarship player threshold to play on Saturday. Each team must have a quarterback, four defensive linemen and seven offensive linemen.
What Utah is working with in terms of available scholarship players isn’t clear, but during a conference call with reporters on Monday, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham indicated his roster was “decimated” and on the cusp of falling below the 53-scholarship limit due to the fallout from coronavirus positive cases.
“It’s spread out,” Whittingham said of coronavirus cases impacting his team. “There were two position groups that were decimated more so than any other. That’s why ultimately we couldn’t play.”
Whittingham said Utah practiced on Monday, but it was anything but normal. He is hopeful that if there aren’t additional positive cases, they can board a plane for Pasadena later this week.
“We’re trying, we hope to, every day is different,” Whittingham said. “If we get a few more positives this week, that could knock us out from the game this weekend. It’s a day to day thing. We will do our best to be able to play the game, but if we lose many more guys this week, then we have another situation where we’re not able to, so we’ll take it day by day and see what happens.”
It doesn’t appear that the players who tested positive last week will be available Saturday.
“We (still) have several active cases, several quarantined, that hasn’t changed much,” Whittingham said. “When we had the rash of positives in the last week those take time, 10 days to two weeks, that’s an ongoing process.”
It also appears that many projected starters could be out.
“Some of these guys haven’t taken really any reps since camp started, since we’ve broken into scout teams, which was after the first week of camp,” Whittingham said of available players. “We’ve got a bunch of guys that are now going to be counted on to help us win, so that’s where we’re at. We are doing our best to be able to play the game.”
UCLA reported that one of its football players also tested positive for the coronavirus prior to its season opener against Colorado on Saturday, but through contact tracing and additional tests, the Bruins were ultimately given the green light to play.
UCLA committed four turnovers and fell behind by 28 points in the first half and even though the Bruins rallied, they weren’t able to come all the way back, losing their season opener, 48-42.
Bruins coach Chip Kelly is well aware of what is going on in Utah and the uncertainty of playing Saturday’s game, but he’s moving ahead as normal.
“In this whole thing, I don’t have a vote,” Kelly said during a call with reporters Monday. “They told us the game is being moved from Friday to Saturday, there were no questions asking me how I felt or where I was. So, our whole plan is if we’re going to play on Saturday then we’ll prepare. We were scheduled to have practice (Sunday) because it was a Friday game, and when the game got moved, we moved our practice times.
“So, I don’t know what’s going on, I know there are obviously a lot of COVID cases and contact tracing going on in Utah, but that’s about the extent of it from our standpoint. We’re in control of the controllable. We make sure to protect our ecosystem and we already lost one player and hopefully we don’t lose anybody else.”
Asked how the Bruins player who tested positive for the coronavirus is doing, Kelly couldn’t offer much.
“That person is unavailable, and that’s all I’m allowed to say,” Kelly said. “I’m not trying to be evasive, but that’s all I’m allowed to say.”