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WVU-Oklahoma football game canceled because of COVID issues

EARLIER ACTION -- Iowa State running back Breece Hall, center, fights for yards as he is swarmed by West Virginia cornerback Dreshun Miller, left, safety Sean Mahone, right, and West Virginia linebacker Josh Chandler-Semedoduring the first half of last Saturday's game in Ames, Iowa -- Associated Press

West Virginia University’s 2020 football season started with hope. It will end with a canceled game.

WVU announced Thursday afternoon that its scheduled Saturday game vs. Oklahoma at Milan Puskar Stadium had been canceled. The game was called off after WVU was forced to suspend all team activities for seven days due to COVID-19 positives and the ensuing contact tracing among the team.

“Our intent is to get this spread under control as soon as possible for the health and safety of all involved,” WVU athletic director Shane Lyons said in a short statement posted on the Mountaineers’ official athletic website. “We are beyond disappointed not to play our final home game of the season and honor our seniors, but we need to act now and reevaluate our situation after Dec. 17.”

This was the second time the Mountaineers and Sooners were scheduled to meet. The game originally was supposed to kick off on Nov. 28, but was moved to Dec. 12 after Oklahoma was unable to meet required COVID-19 thresholds. This time, however, it was WVU whose COVID issues called off the game. Oklahoma is scheduled to face Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship game on Dec. 19.

The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant effect on the Mountaineers earlier this season. Safety protocols from the Big 12 eliminated all but one non-conference game, and WVU played several games at Puskar Stadium without fans.

The Mountaineers now finish the regular season at 5-4 overall and 4-4 in the Big 12. College football eliminated the win minimum for bowl eligibility this season due to COVID-19, which means the Mountaineers can go to a bowl game. WVU football coach Neal Brown said this week he thinks the team could go to a bowl game if invited.

“We’ll always discuss those things with the players but as a staff and as a head coach, we’d be excited about playing,” Brown said during his weekly Zoom call with reporters. “I feel confident that our guys would too. An opportunity to play in the postseason, that’s a reason you come to play college football.”

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