NORMAN, Okla. — Oklahoma football coach Lincoln Riley confirmed after the No. 5 Sooners’ opening victory over Missouri State that the game Saturday night had been jeopardy of being postponed or canceled because of the Sooners’ COVID-19 cases.
Earlier, the Springfield News-Leader reported that Missouri State president Clif Smart told the school’s board of governors that the game had been in doubt.
“It hung in the balance for a little bit, but we were able to do it,” Riley said after the 48-0 victory. “Thankfully, we were able to.”
Several Oklahoma players were out, including kicker Gabe Brkic and running back T.J. Pledger. Brkic was a preseason second-team All-American. Pledger was listed as the starting running back. Anton Harrison, a true freshman who was listed as the starting left tackle, also did not play.
Riley wouldn’t confirm why they were out. He said earlier in the week that he would no longer release team COVID-19 testing results.
The offensive line was especially hard hit with unavailable players.
“Three? I wish it was three,” Riley said. “It’s part of it. We’re lucky in that a lot of those guys, especially in the starting group, have played a lot of ball. We had to move some guys around to make tonight work, and those guys, with their experience in the system and game experience, were able to do that.”
He said he felt the staff handled the situation well.
“It’s either one of two things — you either see it as a hindrance and you say ‘poor me’ and you’re mad you’re in the situation and frustrated, or you look at it as an opportunity,” he said. “An opportunity to see some new players that maybe you wouldn’t have seen, an opportunity as coaches to test yourselves and be able to adjust when things come up.”