Significant number of positive COVID tests forced UCLA to withdraw from Holiday Bowl

UCLA running back Zach Charbonnet, center, celebrates his touchdown with teammates during the second half against California on Nov. 27 at the Rose Bowl. (Jae C. Hong / Associated Press)

North Carolina State flew home Wednesday with the Holiday Bowl trophy from a game that was never played, the Wolfpack counting it as their 10th victory of the season.

In reality, it continued to be a lose-lose situation for everyone involved.

While UCLA stayed mostly mum on having withdrawn less than five hours before kickoff, bowl officials formalized the game’s cancellation after no replacement team could be found and Wolfpack coaches and officials expressed lingering frustration over what they described as a lack of communication from the Bruins.

UCLA also wasn’t exactly thrilled with the circumstances. One person close to the situation, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to publicly disclose sensitive information, told The Times the Bruins pulled out of the game only after a significant number of positive tests for COVID-19 would have forced some players to play out of position, putting them at increased risk of injury.

It was widely known that UCLA was especially thin along the defensive line. Starter Otito Ogbonnia was rehabilitating an injury; backups Tyler Manoa and Jay Toia posted on social media that they were unable to play; reserves Quentin Sommerville and Sitiveni Havili-Kaufusi have been sidelined all season by injuries; and fellow reserves John Ward and Tyler Kiehne announced their intentions to transfer.

Officially, Bruins officials weren’t saying much a day after the game was canceled in response to emailed questions from The Times about the testing timeline, communication with N.C. State, player availability and why the team’s medical staff deemed it too unsafe to play in the…


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