Days after Southern Miss postponed its scheduled game against UTEP due to an increase of COVID-19 cases on the team, the team continues to suffer from this latest outbreak with a major new case.
On Tuesday afternoon, the team announced that Interim Head Coach Scotty Walden had tested positive for COVID-19, and would be taking time off to quarantine.
“Earlier this morning I tested positive for COVID-19,” said Walden in an official statement. “I am fine and have mild to no symptoms. I am quarantining back home until it is safe to rejoin the team. I want to thank Golden Eagle Nation for all of their support for our program during this difficult period. I want to thank our players and staff for continuing to be incredibly resilient during such an unstable time.”
The news came as a shock to fans and players alike. Tight end Grayson Gunter described how the team’s first practice went since Walden tested positive.
“Unfortunately, Coach Walden wasn’t out here today, but at the end of the day, it’s kind of the same thing it’s been all year[.] It’s a next man up attitude,” Gunter said. “That’s the attitude we have. It was already strange enough having an interim head coach in the season and then whenever you get another guy out there, it’s definitely a little weird, but at the same time, it’s been a crazy year, so we’re just taking it a little at a time and going with it.”
Southern Miss last played against North Texas on Oct. 3. The Golden Eagles earned its first victory after a tumultuous 0-3 start to the season.
Since returning from Denton, however, the team has been unable to play for two consecutive weeks. Florida Atlantic postponed its scheduled matchup with Southern Miss after an increase of COVID-19 cases on its team. A week later, Southern Miss postponed its game against UTEP for the same reason.
Junior receiver Antoine Robinson explained how the postponements have affected the team’s energy and preparations.
“We’ve taken a lot this year so it hurt [to hear this], but you’ve just got to fight through it because there’s nothing you can do about it,” Robinson said. “You can just hope it gets rescheduled to go at it again to get the dub.”
The status of Southern Miss’s next game is unclear with the team’s current situation. The Golden Eagles are scheduled to play at Liberty University on Oct. 24. For now, the team is preparing for game day as it normally does under the supervision of a new, temporary head coach.
“Our team will continue to work diligently in preparation for our game this Saturday against Liberty,” Walden said.
The game will kick-off at 12 P.M. at Williams Stadium. The game will be televised on ESPN3.