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Fifth time’s the charm? Taggart confident FAU will open season vs. Charlotte after several COVID-19 delays
South Florida Sun Sentinel - 9/28/2020
The FAU Owls are once again entering a week crossing their fingers in hopes of playing a game after having multiple season openers postponed due to COVID-19 related reasons.
The Owls entered the season knowing their original season opener at Minnesota scheduled for Sept. 3 and original home opener versus Stony Brook on Sept. 12 were canceled by COVID-19 schedule changes at the other schools.
But then their Sept. 19 matchup against Georgia Southern was postponed due to the Owls having a COVID-19 outbreak on the team.
The Owls’most recent attempt at kicking off their season in a scheduled home opener versus USF on Sept. 26 was postponed after it was announced the Bulls' previous opponent, Wake Forest, had seven players test positive for the novel coronavirus.
Because of the delays, FAU will start its season a month later than expected with its first Conference USA game versus Charlotte serving as its home and season opener.
“You start to ask yourself, ‘what are we doing wrong?’ ” Taggart said during a teleconference with reporters Monday afternoon. "We knew there was a chance of this happening, [but] it’s frustrating because you see other folks playing.
“It was unfortunate we didn’t get to play and it wasn’t because of us. I hope our guys continue to do what they’re doing with testing negative and I hope the same goes on for Charlotte so we can play this game Saturday.”
Taggart said the team hasn’t had any positive COVID-19 tests since 18 members of the program, including 12 players, tested positive two weeks ago. C-USA requires that football student-athletes, support and game-day operations staff get tested for COVID-19 three times a week.
Taggart added that five out of the 20 players that would’ve been inactive versus USF are expected to remain inactive versus Charlotte due to being in quarantine from contact tracing.
“Our guys have handled all of this really well,” Taggart said. “Communicating with them early when it all started and telling them how there are going to be sudden changes and having those things happen during training camp really helped prepare our guys for these things. They don’t like it. They get frustrated like we all do, but it’s part of it. You have to stay ready each week.”
Charlotte (0-1) has had its own struggles with playing games this season.
After opening their season Sept. 12 with a loss to Appalachian State, the 49ers canceled their Week 2 matchup against North Carolina due to contact tracing resulting in several offensive linemen being placed in quarantine after three players tested positive for the coronavirus.
Charlotte’s Sept. 26 game against Georgia State was postponed after the Panthers had testing issues of their own, which resulted in multiple false-positive COVID-19 tests.
Taggart said he isn’t worried about Saturday’s game taking place.
“It’s out of our control,” he said. "We try to control what we can. That’s the approach we’ve been taking every week. I thought last week was one of our best practice weeks, and that’s what’s really frustrating because I want to see our guys go out and play since they’ve practiced so well.
“The challenge is to go out there this week and practice the same way we did last week, and be ready for Saturday. For some strange reason, I have a feeling we’re going to play the game this week.”
Last Thursday, NCAA’s Division I football committee recommended that any FBS team playing football this season regardless of its record should be eligible to play in a bowl game as long as it meets the academic progress rate requirements for postseason eligibility.
Taggart said he supports any decision that will help the players.
“These times are different,” he said. “I worry about our young people mentally more than anything. Whatever we can do to help them is good. And you got to do something different because some teams can’t play sometimes.”
Taggart mentioned redshirt junior linebacker Ahman Ross as someone who’s had to quarantine for 28 days due to contact tracing despite never testing positive for COVID-19.
“That can be draining after a while,” Taggart said about Ross. "You never know what people are going through and how things are happening with them from a mental standpoint. Whatever we can do to help our guys, it’s the right thing to do.”
(c)2020 the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)
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