OU v Western Carolina Football

OU's Lincoln Riley talks to his team during the Sooners' game against Western Carolina, Saturday, Sept. 11, 2021, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium. 

Through Oklahoma’s first three games, COVID-19 hasn’t had the same impact as it did in 2020.

The virus had an immediate effect last season, as a large number of players missed the Sooners’ opener against Missouri State due to COVID-19 protocols. But that wasn’t the case for any of the Sooners’ games against Tulane, Western Carolina and Nebraska.

“We've still dealt with it some. Not yet obviously to the scale that we did last year,” OU coach Lincoln Riley said Thursday.

That’s evident by the Sooners’ upcoming game with West Virginia on Saturday, a matchup that was rescheduled and then eventually canceled last season due to COVID-19 cases among both schools.

It wasn’t the only game that was impacted by the virus. Several key players missed last year’s Cotton Bowl matchup, and the Baylor game nearly didn’t happen due to a virus outbreak.

Up to this point, the team hasn’t announced if players have missed games or practice due to the virus. But the team has had nearly all of its rostered players available for each contest.

Riley estimated last month that 95% of the team had been vaccinated, including “basically” the entire coaching staff, but the team has continued to adhere to certain virus protocols.

The team is still wearing masks while in team meetings, Riley said, and players and coaches are still subject to COVID-19 tests, though not three times a week like last season.

The team hasn’t traveled for a game yet — they won’t until Oct. 2 against Kansas State — but Riley said the team’s road protocols will look similar to last season.

“There's some parts I would say that are much closer to back to normal and there's still some things, like our team hotel protocol and all that, that are honestly a little closer to last year,” Riley said. “[It’s] still present. Probably not quite as big a factor as last year, but... it's not like everything is normal within our preparations.

“Once we travel, that entire operation is still more centered toward having COVID in mind.”

With the team’s high vaccination rates and fewer players missing games due to COVID, Riley acknowledged this season has felt a little more normal.

“I don’t know that everybody is as on edge [as last year], but you still feel that edge because any of us can test positive at any moment,” Riley said. “The testing isn’t happening three times a week… and when you do get tested, there’s still some anxiety for all of us, but not as much of it. I think team morale was high, but it’s just a different feeling. Stadium’s full now. Covid’s not as much of a factor.

“It’s probably a little more fun than it was last year, to be completely honest.”

• Jalen Redmond to miss time with injury, per report: The Sooners’ defensive tackle could miss three to four weeks with a small meniscus tear, according to a report from SI Sooners.

Redmond suffered the injury during the Sooners’ 23-16 win last Saturday over Nebraska, SI Sooners reported.

Through three games, Redmond recorded nine tackles, 1.5 sacks and a fumble recovery.

The team has not commented on Redmond’s status for the next few games.

With the injury, Joshua Ellison and Isaiah Coe, who made a momentum-turning block on a Nebraska extra point, could see more snaps in Redmond’s place.

Kickoff for Big 12 title game announced: The Big 12 announced Wednesday that the conference championship game is set for 11 a.m. on Saturday, Dec. 4 at AT&T Stadium.

The game will be broadcast on ABC.

Jesse Crittenden is the sports editor of The Transcript and covers OU athletics. Reach him at jesse@normantranscript.com or at 405-366-3580


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