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UNLV thankful for chance to play this week against Wyoming

If there’s one thing college football teams have learned this season, it’s to not take anything for granted — even something as simple as getting to play every week.

UNLV and Wyoming, two teams that understand how tenuous the situation is in the year of the coronavirus pandemic, will meet at 1 p.m. Friday at Allegiant Stadium.

The Rebels didn’t make the trip to face Colorado State last week after four UNLV players tested positive for COVID-19. Add in contact tracing and other factors, and UNLV coach Marcus Arroyo said the team was missing “about 49 guys.”

Wyoming (1-2) hasn’t had any issues with the virus that would have cost it a game, but it hasn’t played since Nov. 5 after its past two games against Air Force and Utah State were canceled because of positive tests in those programs.

“Third time’s a charm,” Wyoming coach Craig Bohl said Monday in his weekly news conference.

There have been no indications that the game will be canceled, but the Cowboys will be cautiously optimistic until it kicks off. Last week, their game against Utah State was canceled a day before kickoff.

UNLV (0-4) had played its first four games before last week’s cancellation.

“We were obviously disappointed in not having a chance to play last week,” Arroyo said. “But I understand the situation we’re in, and the health and safety of our players, coaches and staff remains the priority.”

That situation can change daily.

“That’s been the tricky thing of the season,” tight end Giovanni Fauolo said. “You don’t know who’s going to be down. But it just goes back to next man up. If you stay prepared, nothing should really phase you.”

Fauolo said while the Rebels were crushed about not getting to play last week, they know there’s nothing they can do about it. So they’re focused on what they can control and thankful for the weeks when they play.

That’s especially true on Thanksgiving week in a year during which so many people have faced difficult circumstances because of COVID-19.

“I’m thankful we get to come to school and play football,” Fauolo said. “There are people going through way worse times than we are, and we get to play football every day. People are losing their jobs and stuff like that, so that’s an easy motivator in the morning when your body’s tired.”

Facing Wyoming presents a unique challenge. Because the Cowboys haven’t played in three weeks, the Rebels have less film than they normally would.

They have enough to understand Wyoming’s basic concepts, but there’s no way to know if the Cowboys have installed more on either side of the ball during the extra practice time. But Arroyo has an idea of what to expect, since Bohl has been at Wyoming for seven seasons.

“They’re a well-coached, disciplined, tough football team,” Arroyo said. “Three of the last four years, his teams have won eight-plus games, so their culture is the right way. They play for each other. You can see it.”

Contact Jason Orts at jorts@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2936. Follow @SportsWithOrts on Twitter.

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