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Wisconsin Badgers forced to cancel football game due to coronavirus concerns vs. Nebraska in just 2nd week of Big 10 season

Wisconsin wide receiver Danny Davis III, left, celebrates his touchdown catch with Jake Ferguson against Illinois on Friday in Madison, Wis. (AP photo)

The pandemic hit Big Ten football just two weeks into its season Wednesday as No. 9 Wisconsin canceled its game at Nebraska and paused team activities for at least a week after a dozen people in the program — including coach Paul Chryst — tested positive for COVID-19.

Athletic director Barry Alvarez and Chancellor Rebecca Blank made the decision in consultation with Big Ten officials. Alvarez said the team had only one positive test two days before Friday’s season-opening 45-7 victory over Illinois and 12 positive tests afterward.

“With the number of positives in that short a timeline, the chancellor and I felt we have an issue, that we have to make this decision and get our arms around this and control the COVID and virus now before it got out of hand,” Alvarez said.

Alvarez said Wisconsin had reached the “orange/red” levels in the Big Ten protocols based on its rate of positive tests. The Big Ten says teams in that area must proceed with caution; among the steps is considering the viability of playing.

School officials said six players and six staff members had tested positive over the last five days. Additional test results were pending.

Illinois punter Blake Hayes, center, catches a pass with Wisconsin cornerback Caesar Williams, front, defending during the second half on Friday in Madison, Wis. Wisconsin won 45-7. (AP photo)

Wisconsin becomes the first Big Ten school to cancel a game since the league started its pandemic-delayed season five days ago.

Rescheduling the game would have been problematic because the Big Ten’s nine-game schedule doesn’t give teams any off weeks.

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