Iowa Football

Because of COVID-19, one game at a time has never been truer

With no college football games canceled, Iowa's in minority of states ... so far

It won't be like at Friday's Iowa-Minnesota game in Minneapolis no matter who wins. Here, Iowa defensive lineman Carl Da
It won’t be like at Friday’s Iowa-Minnesota game in Minneapolis no matter who wins. Here, Iowa defensive lineman Carl Davis takes the Floyd of Rosedale trophy to Hawkeye fans following Iowa’s win over the Gophers at TCF Bank Stadium on Sept. 28, 2013. (The Gazette)

Goodness knows I’ve been told enough that the sports page is supposed to be an escape from our headaches and horrors.

I get it. Oh, how I get it. I don’t make escapes to Netflix or HBO for more reminders about plagues.

But anyone who hasn’t spent the last eight months on a small island without Wi-Fi knows you can’t hide from hearing about COVID-19, not that you should. Like so many other parts of American life, this college football season is one long high wire act this year, and the winds can change at any moment.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Memphis-Navy game was postponed due to COVID-19 cases at Navy. That made an even 50 college games that have been pushed back or canceled.

In Iowa, the two FBS teams have somehow dodged the deluge. Iowa State has played all seven of its scheduled games, through luck as much as its own relatively low COVID-19 numbers.

The Cyclones played Baylor last Saturday. Baylor postponed its scheduled Oct. 17 game against Oklahoma State because it had 28 active COVID-19 cases within its program. It had three postponements in its first five weeks.

Iowa State’s next game is Nov. 21 in Ames against Kansas State. Had that game been this Saturday, things would have been interesting.

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“We had a big COVID outbreak last week with our younger guys,” K-State Coach Chris Klieman said Tuesday, “so we’re down about 20 guys right now.”

At least 75 players on the Wildcats have tested positive since the pandemic began.

Like the state of Iowa, Kansas recently set a single-day high for most COVID-19 cases.

The Iowa Hawkeyes, meanwhile, have expectations of playing their fourth football game in four weeks when they face Minnesota Friday. That would double Wisconsin’s total of games played, assuming the Badgers play Michigan Saturday as planned. The Hawkeyes caught a break by not having Wisconsin on their schedule until Dec. 12. Nebraska and Purdue weren’t so fortunate.

Not that Iowa City is some oasis from the virus. Monday, Iowa’s sports information department announced 30 UI athletes/athletic staff members had tested positive from Nov. 2-8, a noticeable bump from the department’s typical weekly numbers this autumn.

“Now until January, we all just have to be as vigilant as possible and do all we can,” Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “But all that being said there’s no guarantees. My sense is our contributions have been very minimal and I’m really happy to say that — I don’t want to talk about it because I don’t want to jinx us.

“But I think a big part of it, especially for college students, is they really have to kind of live like hermits.”

Ferentz admitted when the Big Ten season originally was canceled on Aug. 11, “our guard was dropped, I can tell you that, and our numbers did go up. We added to the statistics.

“So there’s a direct correlation, in my opinion. I’m not a scientist, but there’s a direct correlation to just how careful you are and how mindful you are. And basically for our guys my message is, ‘We all said we wanted to play and we do want to play, so what are we doing to help it? And let’s understand there’s nothing guaranteed, but at least let’s try to do our part so we can all continue forward together as a team.’

“And January’s January, we’ll worry about it then. Maybe we’ll have a vaccine, who knows. But our mindset right now is really on this next six weeks plus.”

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Hopefully, Iowa’s opponent Friday will be a healthy one. Minnesota’s women’s basketball team paused workouts last week and its men’s basketball team did so this week because of players testing positive for COVID-19.

Sorry to drag all this into the toy department. If you want the glass half-full, tell yourself the two FBS teams from Iowa haven’t missed a game while schools from 29 different states have had games canceled or rescheduled.

As I wrote this, Saturday’s Texas A&M-Tennessee and Alabama-LSU games were called off. Fifty-two.

Comments: (319) 368-8840; mike.hlas@thegazette.com

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