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Sports >  WSU football

Miami modifies travel schedule, still ‘committed’ to playing Washington State in Sun Bowl

Dec. 23, 2021 Updated Thu., Dec. 23, 2021 at 7:43 p.m.

By Colton Clark The Spokesman-Review

PULLMAN – The University of Miami and Sun Bowl officials reached a decision Thursday: The Hurricanes will arrive behind schedule, but the game will go on as planned.

Miami and Washington State are still slated to square off at 9 a.m. Dec. 31 in El Paso, Texas.

An unspecified number of Miami players have reportedly tested positive for the coronavirus, and the program announced earlier this week that it had entered COVID-19 protocols.

The Hurricanes gave themselves extra time to recover and delayed their postseason trip. They originally planned to set out for the Southwest on Sunday. Now Miami’s team plane will land in west Texas on Thursday, according to a release issued by the Sun Bowl Association.

“The University of Miami remains fully committed to its goal of participating in the Tony the Tiger Sun Bowl,” the release reads, “… while ensuring the continued health and safety of its student-athletes, coaches and staff.”

WSU’s flight leaves at 6 a.m. Sunday.

“We’ve done a great job at our university of following every protocol and mandate and all those things,” WSU coach Jake Dickert said. “The biggest thing we can control is our guys and our program and our travel, and we’re just excited to make sure we’re ready to play this game.”

The Cougars (7-5) will have the edge over Miami (7-5) in prep time.

They conducted about a dozen practice sessions in Pullman this month. WSU devoted a couple of weeks to evaluating its younger players, then began to sprinkle in lessons on Miami after finals before taking a short break for the holidays.

“We spread out practices over the last four weeks, two or three a week to make sure we’re staying sharp,” Dickert said, noting the Cougars’ practice schedule in El Paso will resemble that of a “normal game week.”

“It’ll be shorter than normal, but we’re getting our guys’ systems back going. … Once we get there, it’ll be one of those things where we get ourselves back to normal.”

Miami staged two full bowl practices and spent the past few days holding walk-throughs and virtual team meetings, according to the Miami Herald.

The extent of the virus’ spread at Miami isn’t clear, but ESPN reported Thursday that multiple players across several position groups have tested positive.

“Miami is doing everything they can to make sure they get here for the game, but COVID is dictating what can happen,” Sun Bowl executive director Bernie Olivas told ESPN. “We are not absolutely positive they are going to come, but they have told me, and I believe them, they are doing everything they can to play.

“I think they really want to be at the game; the way I understand it, their results are headed in the right direction. We’re all optimistic they’re going to be here.”

Playing with a limited depth chart is a possibility for the Hurricanes.

Playing short-handed is a certainty for the Cougars. Dickert confirmed Wednesday that three of WSU’s most talented seniors – running back Max Borghi, right tackle Abraham Lucas and cornerback Jaylen Watson – have opted out of the bowl game to begin preparing for the NFL draft. Another senior captain, left tackle Liam Ryan, is questionable to play because of an unspecified injury.

WSU linebacker Woods accepts invite to Hula Bowl

Veteran Washington State linebacker Jahad Woods has accepted an invite to play in the Hula Bowl, a postseason all-star showcase for pro prospects.

Woods, a fifth-year starter at weakside LB and WSU’s all-time leader in career starts (51), will conclude his collegiate playing career Jan. 15 at UCF’s Bounce House in Orlando, Florida.

“The disruptive LB with the ‘hybrid’ speed/size/athleticism skills combination that (NFL) teams are looking for today will be at the (Hula Bowl),” the game’s Twitter page announced Thursday.

The 6-foot-1, 225-pound grad student from San Diego is the Cougs’ No. 4 tackler in program history with 419 stops – 18 shy of moving into third on that list.

A four-time All-Pac-12 honorable mention pick, Woods shares the WSU lead in career games played (55) with teammate Justus Rogers, the Cougars’ middle linebacker.

WSU slotback Travell Harris accepted an invite to the Hula Bowl on Dec. 12.

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