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Hawaii, California kick off college football season in Australia

Associated Press

A chartered Boeing 777 touched down at Sydney airport on Monday morning, delivering the California Golden Bears and team officials Down Under for their much-anticipated opening college football game of the season on Saturday against Hawaii.

The 14-hour flight left San Francisco just after midnight Saturday night. The 100-plus players and coach Sonny Dykes, who were greeted by cheerleaders as they walked off the plane, missed the remainder of Sunday when they crossed the International Date Line in the middle of the Pacific Ocean.

No worries, the Golden Bears will pick up that time when they return to the U.S. after the game, arriving back in California earlier in the day than their time of departure from Sydney, due to the 17-hour time difference in their favor.

Organizers say Saturday’s midday game — prime time tonight in the U.S. — at Sydney’s Olympic stadium is expected to attract a crowd of more than 65,000.

Hawaii had less time in the air, 10-1/2 hours from Honolulu. Former Rainbow Warrior quarterback Nick Rolovich, making his debut as head coach, and his team arrived Sunday. It will be the seventh straight year that Hawaii has opened against a Pac-12 opponent, and Hawaii is 2-4 in that span.

Hawaii has had six Australians on its roster in the past, and this year’s squad includes Sydney native and first-year defensive lineman Max Hendrie.

Dykes planned to keep the players up Monday to get them used to the time difference, and what better way than to schedule a practice within three hours of their arrival.