‘Things are trending in the right direction’: Utes’ spirits are up despite emotional toll of canceled games

Utah Utes linebacker Devin Lloyd (20) leads the Utes onto the field before the start of an NCAA football game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019.

Utah Utes linebacker Devin Lloyd (20) leads the Utes onto the field before the start of a game against the Arizona State Sun Devils at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. After losing the first two games on their already-shortened schedule due to COVID-19 issues, players remain upbeat heading into this week’s scheduled game against USC on Saturday. | Colter Peterson, Deseret News

Coach Kyle Whittingham is encouraged by what he’s seen so far from the COVID-19 testing this week. Players impacted by the virus are returning to practices.

For the Utah football program, it’s been the same old story the past two weeks.

Twice the Utes have expended a ton of energy into preparation for an opponent only to see that game canceled the day before kickoff due to COVID-19 issues. First, it was the game against Arizona. Last week, it was a contest at the Rose Bowl against UCLA.

“It’s been pretty rough … it’s really challenging, getting all worked up and getting to the day before the game then to hear the news that you and your guys can’t go out there and fight and do what we’ve worked so hard for,” said junior running back Devin Brumfield. “It’s been a long few months. We were really prepared. Whoever we get to line up against, we’ll be ready.”

Utah’s next attempt at its season opener is No. 20 USC, which is scheduled to visit Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday (8:30 p.m., ESPN).

Coach Kyle Whittingham is encouraged by what he’s seen so far from COVID-19 testing this week.

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“Things are trending in the right direction for us as far as getting back to health and getting guys back out on the practice field,” he said. “Right now, all of our efforts are geared toward getting ready for USC.”

The Utes held what Whittingham called an “excellent” practice Monday and they were planning to practice Tuesday.

“You might expect the players’ spirits to be a little down because of the disappointment the last couple of weeks, but that’s not the case,” he said. “They are eager and ready to go.”

Still, there’s no doubt that what’s transpired the past two weeks has taken an emotional toll on the players.

“It’s been tough, particularly for the players. The coaches are probably a little more emotionally able to handle that. But the players are competitive, they’re looking forward to competing,” Whittingham said. “To have the rug pulled out from under them at the last minute two weekends in a row is difficult.

“But they’ve been very resilient and shown a great deal of resolve when they’ve come back. We’re in a good place right now mentally. We still don’t know a lot about our football team because we haven’t had a chance to play yet. But as far as their work ethic, their focus, their attention to detail, it’s all been very good.”

Whittingham said the program has seen the return of a number of players to help it meet the …read more

Source:: Deseret News – Sports News

      

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