North Carolina State flew home Wednesday with the Holiday Bowl trophy from a never-played game, the Wolfpack achieving their 10th win of the season.
It was actually an unfortunate situation for everyone involved.
While UCLA remained silent for withdrawing less than five hours before kickoff, Bowl officials formalized the cancellation of the game after a replacement team could not be found and Wolfpack coaches and officials expressed their frustration at what they described as a lack of communication from the Bruins.
UCLA wasn’t exactly thrilled with the circumstances, either. A person close to the situation, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly disclose sensitive information, told The Times that the Bruins withdrew from the game only after a significant number of positive tests for COVID-19 in the Game morning forced some players to perform out of position, putting them at greater risk of injury.
It was well known that UCLA was especially decimated on the defensive line. The owner Otito Ogbonnia was recovering from an injury; Substitutes Tyler Manoa and Jay Toia posted on social media that they couldn’t play; backups Quentin Sommerville and Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi have been on the sidelines all season with injuries; and fellow reserves John Ward and Tyler Kiehne announced their intentions to transfer.
Officially, Bruins officials still didn’t say much one day after the game’s cancellation, in response to emailed questions from The Times about the testing timeline, communication with NC State, availability of the players and why the team’s medical staff found it too unsafe to play the game.
“On Tuesday, medical staff let us know that it was unsafe for student-athletes to compete based on COVID protocols,” UCLA spokesman Scott Markley said in a statement largely reflecting a tweet of the day. former sports director Martin Jarmond. “We are disappointed that we cannot go out on the field; however, the health and safety of our student-athletes is our highest priority. ”
UCLA coach Chip Kelly had said on the eve of the game that the team’s unvaccinated players had been screened earlier in the week and that anyone developing symptoms would be screened, suggesting that several players were not feeling well on the match day.
After informing NC State that they would not be able to play, the Bruins left for Los Angeles on Tuesday afternoon as competition officials worked to find a replacement team. When it became clear Wednesday morning that no alternate arrangements could be made to host the game, Bowl officials awarded the trophy to the Wolfpacks at the hotel where the team was staying, even though the game was deemed uncontested.
NC State athletic director Boo Corrigan told ESPN that Jarmond apologized to him earlier in the day for the situation, but Corrigan said he was still upset that he found out about the Bruins’ withdrawal from Twitter rather than from the UCLA officers.
Wolfpack coach Dave Doeren said he was irritated that the Bruins had not advised his team that they would not play.
“We’re upset because they probably already knew they couldn’t play long before the four hours before the game started,” Doeren told ESPN. “They sure had an idea. An ad so we could start calling other teams to play would have been great. “
UCLA was pending the 2022 season which will presumably include Kelly as their coach. Kelly and the school haven’t agreed to a contract extension that ends after next season, but Kelly has hired two defensive assistant coaches in recent weeks, suggesting he intends to return.
The Bruins’ roster for next season is also beginning to take shape. While right tackle Alec Anderson announced on Instagram that he would plead for the NFL draft, defensive linemen Martin Andrus and Tyler Manoa have indicated on social media that they would return in 2022.
If all goes well, they might even play in a cup match.
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A significant number of positive COVID tests forced UCLA to withdraw from the Holiday Bowl