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Cal football: Bears will play at UCLA on Sunday after Arizona State game canceled

UCLA's game against Utah was canceled earlier Friday because of coronavirus issues in the Utes' program

BERKELEY, CA – OCT. 19: California Golden Bears head coach Justin Wilcox watches the final moments of his team’s 21-17 loss to the Oregon State Beavers at Memorial Stadium in Berkeley, Calif., on Saturday, Oct. 19, 2019. (Karl Mondon/Bay Area News Group)
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BERKELEY — Cal will play its football season opener this weekend after all.

On Friday, only hours after its game at Arizona State had been canceled because of coronavirus issues involving ASU coach Herm Edwards and his players, the Bears got a new opponent. They will play UCLA on Sunday morning at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.

As evidence of how the pandemic is wreaking havoc on things, UCLA had been scheduled to play Utah on Saturday. But that game also was canceled Friday because of a COVID-19 outbreak in the Utes’ program, leaving Cal and UCLA without an opponent.

The Cal-UCLA game on Sunday will kick off at 9 a.m. and be televised on FS1.

“We have known since the pandemic began that the 2020 college football season would be different from any other,”  Cal coach Justin Wilcox said in a statement.  “As I’ve told our team many times, the one thing we have learned is to expect the unexpected.”

Cal was supposed to have opened its season last Saturday in Berkeley against Washington, but that game was canceled because Cal didn’t have enough players after one defensive lineman tested positive and the entire position group was sidelined due to contact tracing. Cal announced Friday that those players have been cleared to play Sunday.

By the time the Cal-UCLA game was announced, the day had been filled with so many rumors and so much speculation that the former Bears star Evan Weaver, a 2019 All-American, took to Twitter to ask: “Are we absolutely sure it’s going to happen???”

After the ASU game was canceled, speculation began that Cal might play Washington. The Huskies, it was rumored, weren’t certain about their game against Oregon State because of virus concerns involving the Beavers.

But when Utah’s game at UCLA was canceled because of COVID issues with the Utes, the Bears and the Bruins both had open dates. Because UCLA was already prepared to host a game with TV on site, the game was scheduled.

Cal and UCLA were not originally scheduled to play each other this season. The Bears’ only cross-division opponent in the Pac-12’s abbreviated seven-game schedule was to have been Arizona State. UCLA played its opener last Saturday, lost 48-42 at Colorado. The Bruins are coming off a 4-8 season that included a 28-18 loss to Cal at the Rose Bowl.

Cal’s game against Arizona State was canceled because, in addition to Edwards contracting it, the virus had left the Sun Devils with too few scholarship players to go forth with the game.

Edwards, the former NFL head coach and ESPN analyst — he grew up in Seaside, went to Monterey High and played at Cal — said he and his family are OK.

“First, I want to say that Lia, the girls and I are fine and I will be back quicker than you can say ‘Forks Up!’” Edwards said, invoking the Sun Devils’ slogan. “Second, even with the marvelous care our medical professionals have provided for myself, my staff and my team over the past few months the virus still found me.  So, I encourage all of you to take this virus seriously, to wear a mask, practice physical distancing and get tested whenever possible.”