Sooners prepare for unexpected home game

Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley confirmed that COVID-19 hasn’t affected his team much heading into Saturday’s home contest against Tulane. He said the OU roster is around 95% vaccinated.

NORMAN — Although the circumstances aren’t ideal, Oklahoma will play four straight home games to start the season.

Both Oklahoma and Tulane announced Monday afternoon that Saturday’s game will be played in Norman due to Hurricane Ida. The Category 4 hurricane hit New Orleans on Sunday, causing city-wide power outages for more than a million residents along with significant property damage.

At least five are confirmed dead, per the Associated Press.

Tulane’s football team has been practicing in Birmingham, Alabama, since before the storm hit, and it became clear that playing Saturday’s game in New Orleans was unfeasible.

“We’re excited to get an unexpected extra home game here,” said OU coach Lincoln Riley on Tuesday. “Obviously, not the circumstances any of us would want it under. Certainly, thoughts and prayers go out to everybody affected by the hurricane, the Tulane football team, all that they’ve been going through being relocated. I know a lot of guys from that area. Thoughts and prayers with them, the staff, their families.”

It’ll be the first time since 2004 that the Sooners open their season with four straight home games. The Sooners won’t play a road game until Oct. 2 against Kansas State.

While the Sooners added an extra home game, Riley said the team’s preparation won’t change much.

“We don’t get on a plane… Friday’s schedule for a home game is slightly different because of that. But not much different at all. Preparation will be the same,” Riley said. “If they would have told us it was a neutral site, if they would have told us anywhere on this planet, we would have been ready to play.

“We wanted to be able to do it for Tulane, to be able to keep the game on. Excited to be able to play another game here. I’m sure fans will respond and we’ll have a great atmosphere Saturday morning.”

Oklahoma picks team captains:

The Sooners selected four players to be their team captains this season — three seniors and one redshirt sophomore.

Quarterback Spencer Rattler and H-back Jeremiah Hall will represent the offense, while defensive back Patrick Fields and linebacker Caleb Kelly will represent the defense.

COVID-19 Vaccine update:

The virus hasn’t impacted the team much yet.

Riley expects his full roster, except Ryan People who’s out with an injury, to be available for Saturday’s game. He added that the roster is around 95% vaccinated, including most of the staff.

“I mean, I definitely feel better relative to last year [about managing COVID],” Riley said. “... You feel better because there is some degree of protection [with the vaccine] and because most of us have been through this a little bit. You’ve learned how to deal with certain things as they come up.

But everybody out there right now, this Delta variant is obviously a serious deal. Maybe some of that degree of security or comfort that we all felt there for a while has started to be diminished a little bit. I know it certainly has within our walls.”

Full game day tailgating returns:

Fans can expect a return to pre-COVID tailgating for home games this season.

The university announced a full return to tailgating and other game day activities this season, which will largely reflect the 2019 season. Fans will be permitted to tailgating equipment at noon on the day before game day.

The university is strongly recommending that fans participating in tailgating activities wear masks and be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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