Salt Lake City (ABC4 Sports) – The Utah football team is still reeling from the cancellation of their season opener against Arizona this past weekend because of positive COVID-19 tests that left the Utes with less than the required 53 scholarship players available to play.
Head coach Kyle Whittingham said this is not the first cases of the virus that they’ve seen.
“It’s been sporadic all through the months we’ve been practicing as far as positives,” Whittingham said. “They’ve been showing up here and there, but we had a rash of them on Friday.”
Utah hasn’t said how many players tested positive, but at least one player had to be hospitalized.
“It was spread out but there were two positions groups that were decimated, more so than any other,” said Whittingham. “That’s why ultimately we couldn’t play. First of all, the total number of scholarship players and the two positions groups where we couldn’t line up and get it done.”
After gearing up for weeks to play the Wildcats, the news of the cancellation obviously sent shock waves through the team.
“We put all this time and effort into preparation for the team we were supposed to play last week,” defensive lineman Maxs Tupai said. “It just didn’t work out, so I think everybody was pretty bummed about it.”
“Finding out the game was cancelled due to Covid was like, it really sucks,” added defensive lineman Viane Moala. “But we’ve gotta move forward, looking forward to playing UCLA.”
This week’s game against the Bruins in the Rose Bowl was moved from Friday to Saturday to give the Utes an extra day to get healthy.
Defensive back Malone Mataele said this is just another challenge for the team to overcome.
“It definitely hurt not being able to go out there to compete,” he said. “But you can’t be mad at that. Things are going to happen, There are going to be punches thrown during a fight, so it’s just about building and moving on to next week.”
Utah athletic director Mark Harlan tweeted that the number of positive tests have gone down the last couple of days, and he is hopeful the game against UCLA will be played.
The Utes resumed practice today, but they are right at the borderline as far as having enough players healthy. Whittingham said they have had to give guys who are way down on the depth chart a chance to play.
“Absolutely, just for the sheer fact that our numbers, you have to give guys reps,” he said. “Somebody has got to take the reps, so the guys that are available are the guys that are getting reps. It certainly has been a juggling act. Every day essentially, getting lineups, getting people back from quarantine or from the virus itself, and you’re losing some people. So, it’s been tough to keep continuity, but I’m sure the whole country is having the same issue I would imagine.”
Utah currently has five games left on its schedule before the Pac-12 Championship Game is decided. They are scheduled to kick of against UCLA at 8:30 p.m. Saturday night.