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story.lead_photo.caption Kierre Crossley ran 12 times for 110 yards and a touchdown in Central Arkansas’ 24-17 victory over Austin Peay on Saturday. All 72 Central Arkansas players, as well as the coaches and staff, were tested Sunday for covid-19, and all of the tests came back negative on Monday. (Photo courtesy University of Central Arkansas)

After playing in the first college football game of the season Saturday against Austin Peay, University of Central Arkansas had zero positive covid-19 tests among traveling personnel in results received Monday, Athletic Director Brad Teague said.

All 72 players, as well as the coaches and staff members, were tested Sunday at 8 a.m. in Birmingham, Ala., by University of Alabama-Birmingham's medical staff as they prepare for their matchup with UAB on Thursday. The results came back Monday afternoon and were all negative.

"I'm very happy," Teague said. "Our young men I think have done a great job of distancing themselves and staying away from any crowds and any issues and wearing masks and washing their hands. I'm pretty confident that that can continue."

For the most part, UCA has been successful with test results leading up to the season -- they had two positives out of 166 personnel tested last week, and both were players who were not on the travel squad. UCA will be tested again this morning in accordance with the testing guidelines of Conference USA, of which UAB is a member. The conference requires teams to be tested at least two times before each game.

"Now of course, they're testing again tomorrow," Teague said. "But we tested on Sunday morning, so maybe it hasn't shown up yet if that's the case. So I'm a little nervous about tomorrow's test as well."

The Bears have taken multiple measures to try and keep their personnel from contracting the virus, including forcing everyone to wear an N95 mask at all times. With UCA staying at the Hilton Birmingham at UAB, one would think it might be hard to keep players socially distant from people not in their bubble.

But Teague believes that's worked in their favor.

"I kind of think it's almost even better staying in Birmingham and staying together, not integrated into the classroom and with your friends around Conway," Teague said. "I bet it's even a better bubble there just in the hotel and staying with their team all the time. I feel good about that. I felt that was probably our best move."

One concern for UCA on the road is what happens if someone does test positive. The protocol in that scenario would be to send that person and their roommate -- even if the roommate did not test positive -- back to Conway immediately to quarantine.

Because of this, the Bears have specifically not roomed any players of the same position group together. So, for example, starting junior quarterback Breylin Smith and junior backup Luke Hales -- who would typically share a room -- are not staying together.

"As you saw, the two deep snappers from Austin Peay the other night didn't make the trip. It goes even as far as deep snappers," Teague said. "You better keep everyone from the same position apart."

As long as tests go smoothly today, UCA will face UAB on Thursday at Legion Field at 7 p.m. on ESPN3. For now, Teague will continue to hold his breath in anticipation.

"Just another hurdle we've passed," Teague said. "And another one tomorrow, and another one Thursday night."


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