For the Daily News

In Week 1, he practiced all week but wasn't allowed to play the game.

In Week 2, he played the game but barely was allowed to practice.

With any luck, quarterback Davis Mills will do both this week as Stanford tries to overcome the strangest pandemic-related setback of this strange Pac-12 football season.

After temporarily losing the services of Mills and three other players because of errors in the coronavirus testing process, the Cardinal (0-2) wil try to put their frustrations aside when they face Washington State (1-1) on Saturday (FS1) at Stanford, Calif.

Kickoff time is 7:30 p.m., a half-hour earlier than originally scheduled.

Hours before Stanford's season opener Nov. 7 at Oregon, the Cardinal learned that Mills, receiver Connor Wedington, defensive end Trey LaBounty and another player were being shelved because of coronavirus protocols.

The players not only missed the game, which the Cardinal lost 35-14, but they entered quarantine and missed most of the next week's practices.

A week ago today, the Pac-12 apologetically announced it was all a mistake — one of the players had drawn a positive virus test, but it turned out to be a false positive. The other three players had been shut down after contact tracing.

All four were cleared for the home opener this past Saturday against Colorado. Mills, a 6-foot-4, 225-pound senior who's on the watch list for the Maxwell Award, passed for 327 yards but the Cardinal fell behind early and were forced out their entrenched run-first philosophy. Mills was 31-of-56.

"With one 45-minute practice on Friday, he went out and played relatively well," Stanford coach David Shaw said in a Zoom news conference Tuesday. "The rust was there. There were a couple of things we tried that didn't work. It's a tough spot to put him in. He came back in the second half and really found his rhythm and played like we know he's capable of."

Wedington caught eight passes for 77 yards.

During the extended offseason, as the Pac-12 tried to navigate a course through the pandemic, Shaw characteristically led the way, on a conference and national level. As Washington State coach Nick Rolovich said this week, the longtime Stanford boss "is a great representative for our conference.... People trust that he'll do the right thing, what's best for the conference."

But it's difficult for a coach to play that kind of role once the season starts.

When he heard about the players being held from the Oregon game, "I was too busy trying to get a team ready to play" to look into the matter closely, he said.

"Surprised and anxious and (ticked) off," he said of his reaction. "And then come Sunday, less surprised and less anxious and a little bit more angry. But there's nothing we can do about it. It cost those four guys a game and cost them a week of practice."

In any case, he liked his quarterback's immediate response to the disappointment.

"I talked to him on game day — he said, 'Hey coach, there's nothing we can do about it right now. I'm just wishing my guys success and rooting them on," Shaw said.

"He and I have a very similiar mentality. He doesn't have a lot of highs, doesn't have a lot of lows. He deals with the situation presented."

ON AYDEN HECTOR — Shaw gave the impression that, if he had his druthers, the reigning Pac-12 freshman of the week would be playing for Stanford instead of Washington State.

In February, true freshman safety Ayden Hector signed with the Cardinal as a four-star recruit out of Eastside Catholic High School in Seattle. But the school later rescinded its offer after investigating his involvement as a witness to an alleged sexual assault two years ago. No charges were filed in the case.

Hector wound up joining the Cougars as a walk-on, just three weeks before their season opener. In a home loss to Oregon last week, he recovered two fumbles and intercepted a pass during a span of three Duck possessions.

Shaw was asked what light he can cast on Stanford's reversal on Hector.

"Not much," he said. "I don't talk about admissions decisions. We recruited Ayden, and it doesn't take you long to do any digging to see what happened. But our admissions department made a decision, which we understood. We had communication with Ayden's family. They understood. Washington State, who I didn't communicate with at all, did their due diligence and they brought him to their school and added him to their football team."

NONCONFERENCE GAMES GET OK — The Pac-12 announced Thursday it's allowing football teams to schedule nonconference games after all.

They must be home games for the Pac-12 team and be broadcast by a Pac-12 television partner, the league said. Also, Pac-12 virus testing protocols must be followed.

If a Pac-12 opponent becomes available for any team before Friday of any given week, that will take precedence over any nonleague matchup.

In deciding in September to hash out a delayed makeshift football season, the Pac-12 saw it as seven-game affair, all within the league.

The conference's reversal comes amid a spate of virus-related disruptions. Nationwide, 63 games involving Football Bowl Subdivision schools have been canceled or postponed because of the pandemic.

Dale Grummert may be contacted at or (208) 848-2290.

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