By Theo Lawson | McClatchy News Service
PULLMAN — Washington State’s upcoming game at USC has been pushed back two days in order to give Trojans players more time to come out of isolation or quarantine after entering COVID-19 protocol within the past two weeks.
The Cougars (1-1) and Trojans (3-0) will now play Sunday at 6 p.m. at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on FS1, the Pac-12 Conference announced. Originally, the teams were supposed to kick off at 6 p.m. Friday on FS1.
According to a press release from WSU, “The game was moved to allow for the return of USC players who are in isolation due to COVID-19 positive tests or in quarantine as a result of contact tracing.”
Both WSU and USC have encountered COVID-19 issues within the last month, but the Trojans’ outbreak was more recent and the schedule change indicates Clay Helton’s team either wouldn’t have been able to meet the Pac-12’s 53-man threshold, or the position requirements that mandate teams must have at least one scholarship quarterback, seven offensive linemen and seven defensive linemen available.
One USC player who traveled to the team’s previous game at Utah tested positive for COVID-19, as did two other Trojans later in the week.
Another group of USC players who came in close contact with someone who tested positive were placed in a 14-day quarantine.
WSU coach Nick Rolovich expressed confidence the Cougars would be in the clear to play USC during his latest media availability. With as many as nine players in COVID-19 protocol, WSU had to cancel games against Stanford (Nov. 21) and Washington (Nov. 27) and the Cougars will have gone 22 days without a game when they arrive at the Coliseum Sunday. All nine players quarantining or isolating should be available for WSU, though it’s unclear if any additional athletes have entered the COVID-19 protocol since athletic director Pat Chun offered his most recent update early last week.
Despite a change to the date of the game, both the Cougars and Trojans will still have to adhere to the regular game-week testing procedures — and probably without much margin for error — before being cleared to play Sunday in Los Angeles.
It’ll mark just the second time this season a Pac-12 game will be held on Sunday, but the first time one will be held in the evening. UCLA and Cal were both left without an opponent when Utah and Arizona State encountered COVID-19 obstacles early in the season and wound up playing at 9 a.m. on Nov. 15 at the Rose Bowl.