Yes, playing college football on a Sunday is weird, but it probably won’t be Washington State’s biggest logistical challenge next week.
When the Cougars’ game at USC this Friday was pushed ahead two days because of coronavirus concerns, it gave them more time to prepare for that contest but significantly less to prep for their next one. That would be a home game against California on Dec. 12.
But amid all the disruptions of 2020, nobody’s complaining too loudly.
“It’s going to be a quick turnaround after Sunday,” WSU coach Nick Rolovich said Monday evening in a virtual news conference. “Hopefully we can get home at a decent hour. These guys have school on Monday and we have to turn around and get ready for Cal. I think that’s where some of our attention goes.”
For coaches, anyway. Players this week will focused squarely on the No. 17 USC Trojans (3-0), whom they play at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday (FS1) at Los Angeles.
For unexplained reasons, kickoff time was moved Monday from the 6 p.m. slot announced the previous day. The switch may be related to a 10 p.m. curfew imposed in Los Angeles County because of rising coronavirus numbers. In any case, it’s good news for the Cougars (1-1), who will get back to Pullman earlier and start preparing for a short week.
The game had originally been scheduled for 6 p.m. this Friday but was moved to give the Trojans more time to get players out of virus protocol.
During a stretch that began early last week, they drew four positive virus tests and sent seven other players into protocol, nudging the team below the Pac-12’s seven-player minimum for available offensive linemen. Some of those 11 players are expected back by Sunday.
Coaches often distance themselves from negotiations for game shufflings, but Rolovich said he’s been communicating regularly with USC coach Clay Helton, whose brother Tyson Helton (now head coach at Western Kentucky) was a graduate assistant at Hawaii when Rolovich played for that school.
“I’ve known the family a long time,” the first-year WSU coach said. “Clay is a good person. This isn’t a time for shenanigans. We’re just trying to get the deal going.”
The goal, he said, was to do “what we have to do to get a game in. I think everything was on the up-and-up. That was the main goal, to get these kids a game.”
Cougars receiver Renard Bell has no problem playing on a day normally reserved for the NFL.
“It’s going to be amazing,” he said during the news conference. “I can’t wait to play on Sunday. There’s a first time for everything. It’s pretty much as if we were playing at the next level almost.”
For Rolovich, playing on a Sunday in 2020 seems less strange than it would be during a normal season.
“I don’t think it will be a big deal, just because of everything we’ve all gone through,” he said. “In a regular year, ‘All right, guys are going to be missing church. Guys have got school the next day. You’re getting home late.’ This year I don’t think it makes it that much different.”
Rolovich suggested the Cougars have contained their own coronavirus outbreak, which forced the cancellation of a game at Stanford and the tentative cancellation of the Apple Cup against Washington. They haven’t played since Nov. 14.
Cougars quarterback Jayden de Laura, who tested positive for the virus two weeks ago, is expected to play Sunday, Rolovich said. Running back Max Borghi, who has been sidelined since the preseason with an undisclosed injury, is “getting closer,” the coach said.
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