Sydney rain forces changes in Cal, Hawaii training schedules

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Thursday, August 25, 2016

SYDNEY -- Heavy rainfall in Sydney over 12 hours into early Thursday morning forced changes to the practice schedules for California and Hawaii just two days away from their college football season opener at the Olympic stadium.

Both teams were scheduled to hold open practice sessions at the stadium in western Sydney on Thursday, but 2 to 4 inches of rain late Wednesday and overnight forced organizers to keep the players off the turf.

Hawaii was given a chance to practice at the University of New South Wales but because it was about an hour away toward the city and into busy traffic, decided to cancel their practice session and did a walk-through later in the day in preparation for Saturday's game.

"We would have spent more time in traffic than at the practice," Hawaii team spokesman Derek Inouchi said.

California held a light workout at the same ground Thursday ahead of Friday's final training session for the game which organizers say is expected to attract a crowd of about 65,000.

"We worked through it," Cal coach Sonny Dykes said after Wednesday's rainy training session on the synthetic turf at the University of New South Wales field.

"We had a bit of rain, and bit of cold, not the best weather conditions." Dykes added as the rain pelted down on a tin roof above him. "Anytime you travel 24 hours there are going to be some obstacles, but overall we've done a good job of adjusting."

The weather forecast for Saturday is for a 50 percent chance of some light rain and a high temperature of 66 degrees.

The game is set to start at midday Saturday, or Friday at 10 p.m. ET in mainland U.S. and 4 in the afternoon for the Hawaii home fans in the mid-Pacific. It was brought to Sydney in an attempt to increase support for football in Australia, a country which keenly follows the NFL and has provided several players, mostly punters and kickers from Australian rules football, to NFL teams.

It's only the third college game played in Australia -- the previous two were in Melbourne in the 1980s. The last U.S. football match played in Sydney was in 1999 when theDenver Broncos beat the San Diego Chargers20-17 in a preseason game at the Olympicstadium which attracted more than 73,000 spectators.

Saturday's crowd, which will feast on foot-long hot dogs and other menu favorites from the U.S., will see experienced quarterbacks start the game.

Davis Webb, who Dykes has already named in the starting role, is one of the key Cal additions this year, replacingJared Goff, the No. 1 overall NFL draft pick by the Los Angeles Rams.

A graduate transfer from Texas Tech, Webb played in 23 games with 14 starts over three seasons and career totals of 5,557 yards and 46 touchdowns. He's enrolled in Cal's public health Masters program.

Ikaika Woolsey beat out three other Hawaii quarterbacks to get the nod for the starting role in Sydney from new coach Nick Rolovich. In his senior year, he has had 19 starts for the Rainbow Warriors.

The Rodeo, California-born Woolsey will lead Hawaii's contingent on Saturday in a familiar pregame ritual that many Australian rugby fans will recognize.

New Zealand's famed All Blacks rugby team do a Maori-inspired haka, or war dance, on the same field whenever they play Australia's Wallabies in rugby union matches. But that only usually involves the starting 15 players.

On Saturday, the entire Hawaii squad numbering nearly 100 players will take to the field about 20 minutes before kickoff to do the haka that is compulsory for all team members to learn.

It's the seventh consecutive year that Hawaii, a member of the Mountain West conference, will open against a Pac-12 opponent. They are 2-4 over that span.

California has a better record, going 7-2 in season openers since 2007, including a 73-14 home win at Berkeley last year over Grambling State. Overall, the Golden Bears are 75-42-4 in all-time season openers.