After making it halfway through the 2020 season without a COVID-19 scare, the pandemic caught up to Fresno State Football over the last two weeks.
Initially on Nov. 19 Fresno State Athletic Director Terry Tumey revealed that one person in the program had tested positive for COVID-19. That single positive case knocked out two of the biggest games on the schedule – rivalry matchups against San Jose State and San Diego State – because of contact tracing.
The Mountain West, Fresno State, Tumey and head coach Kalen DeBoer did not reveal if that one positive test led to other positive coronavirus cases on the team, but DeBoer and the ‘Dogs are approaching this week’s game against Nevada with the full intention of actually playing it.
In his weekly press conference Monday, DeBoer said some injuries also prevented the team from having enough players available to compete the last two weeks, in addition to the contact tracing. Many of the injured players will still be out, but the players who had to quarantine for 14 days due to contact tracing should be ready to go.
“I think we’re coming along, and guys have had to put in their time, and still putting in their time, with the quarantine situation through the contact tracing,” DeBoer said. “It’s a long 14 days. Right now I think we’re looking good. Guys are still going through that, but we’ll slowly be getting guys back throughout the course of the week.”
Even though the quarantine period will have run its course by the time the ‘Dogs suit up Saturday in Reno, some players may still have to sit out because the program is taking extra precautions regarding the pandemic.
That decision would not be a new one to the team. DeBoer said the team has chosen to keep players off the field in earlier games out of an abundance of caution that is not required by the Mountain West.
“Right now we’re getting close, and that could be a possibility that we do have everyone back,” DeBoer said. “But I don’t know if we’ve played a game this year where we haven’t withheld someone just out of precautionary reasons as well.
“There’s been guys that have missed, so it’s just a very delicate situation, and we’ve tried to handle it to try to make sure it didn’t get into our team. Obviously we had that situation come up, and I think we’ve continued to handle it the best we can from there.”
The Bulldogs will have modified practices for most of the week with several key players in quarantine for a few more days still, DeBoer said.
With two consecutive weeks lost to the pandemic and an unusual week of practice heading into Nevada, DeBoer and the Bulldogs face one major question: Can they keep up the momentum they had just a few weeks ago?
Following the Week 1 loss to Hawaii the ‘Dogs rattled off three straight wins to look like a team that is capable of competing for the Mountain West title. Quarterback Jake Haener threw for over 400 yards in the last game against Utah State, and wide receiver Jalen Cropper had over 200 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns.
The Bulldogs had some serious gains and proved that they don’t have to rely completely on Ronnie Rivers to win games. But with two weeks off, will that momentum still be there for the ‘Dogs to take down a 5-1 Nevada team on Saturday?
“We were a hot football team that was getting better,” DeBoer said. “We’re really trying to continue to just show our guys that even though it’s kind of almost something like [we] got hit across the side of the head here a few weeks back, we’ve got to recover. And we’ve gone back to just home base with our 1-0 mantra. All we can do is worry about today and give it everything you’ve got.”
Photo: Fresno State Athletics