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Utes football: Utah quarterback Travis Wilson mourning loss of best friend, UCLA receiver Nick Pasquale

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 10:46 a.m. MDT

Travis Wilson of the University of Utah throws a long pass to wide receiver Dres Anderson of the Utah Utes during NCAA football against Utah State in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News) Travis Wilson of the University of Utah throws a long pass to wide receiver Dres Anderson of the Utah Utes during NCAA football against Utah State in Salt Lake City, Thursday, Aug. 29, 2013. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — It’s been a difficult week for Utah quarterback Travis Wilson. He’s mourning the loss of UCLA wide receiver Nick Pasquale, who died after being hit by a car early Sunday morning in San Clemente, Calif.

“He was my best friend since I was 6 years old, so it’s been kind of hard these last couple of days,” Wilson said. “But I know he’s in a better place now and I know he’ll be looking out after me this Saturday.”

Wilson said that Pasquale was amazing.

“He really wasn’t the biggest kid and wasn’t the strongest kid on the field, but he had the biggest heart I’ve ever known in anybody,” Wilson explained. “He definitely taught me some great lessons and I’ll definitely never forget about him.”

Utah quarterback Travis Wilson fires a pass during pre game warmups before the start of the Utes game against Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013.  (Matt Gade, Deseret News) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson fires a pass during pre game warmups before the start of the Utes game against Weber State at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 7, 2013. (Matt Gade, Deseret News)

Wilson noted that he and Pasquale were Pop Warner and high school teammates and they tried to text each other “all the time.” He said that Pasquale was really happy for the opportunity to walk on and play at UCLA.

“I’m really happy that I got him in my life and stuff, but it’s kind of a tragedy that he had to go,” Wilson said. “Sunday was definitely a hard day for me. So was yesterday. I’m still trying to work through it a little bit, but all my friends and family have been there for me.

“It was a big loss for me and I’m definitely going to miss him a lot,” Wilson added.

PREPARATIONS PROGRESSING: After Tuesday’s practice, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said that preparations for Saturday’s game against Oregon State were going well.

“It was the first normal week, I guess you could say, where we’re coming off a Saturday contest,” Whittingham said. “So today was our first regular Tuesday and there’s things to clean up. You usually see a lot of mental mistakes and alignment mistakes on Tuesday because of the new install, but hopefully those get cut down as you go through the week. That’s the objective, so by Friday you’re doing everything just right.”

In this August 2010 photo, Nick Pasquale runs the ball at San Clemente (Calif.) High School football during practice. Pasquale, 20, who played wide receiver as a freshman at UCLA, was struck by a car and killed early Sunday morning, Sept. 8, 2013, in San Clemente.  (Paul Bersebach, AP) In this August 2010 photo, Nick Pasquale runs the ball at San Clemente (Calif.) High School football during practice. Pasquale, 20, who played wide receiver as a freshman at UCLA, was struck by a car and killed early Sunday morning, Sept. 8, 2013, in San Clemente. (Paul Bersebach, AP)

DEFENDING MANNION: Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion enters the game ranked second in the Pac-12 in passing yards per game (397), total offense (390.5 ypg) and completions per game (34). The 6-foot-5 junior ranks among the NCAA leaders in each category.

“The good thing about it is he’s a tall quarterback,” said Utah safety Eric Rowe. “It makes it easier for me to watch his eyes.”

While keeping track of Mannion will be a challenge, Rowe is also looking at it as a chance for Utah’s secondary to step up — break up some passes and go after some interceptions.

“I see it as a big opportunity to make plays and show what we have,” Rowe said.

MAKING STRIDES: Although running back Lucky Radley leads the Utes with 111 yards rushing (all against Weber State), the junior still trails co-starters Kelvin York and Bubba Poole on the depth chart.

Wide receiver Kenneth Scott is tackled by Eric Rowe and Wykie Freeman during University of Utah Football practice Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News) Wide receiver Kenneth Scott is tackled by Eric Rowe and Wykie Freeman during University of Utah Football practice Friday, Aug. 9, 2013. (Scott G Winterton, Deseret News)

Whittingham noted that Radley “certainly played exceptionally well and earned a right to carry the football more,” but added that “I don’t believe that he unseated any of the other two guys.”

GETTING READY: Oregon State coach Mike Riley knows exactly what the Beavers face in their first road game of the season. He’s been on the short end of decisions to Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium in 2008 (31-28) and 2011 (27-8).

“That’s quite an environment,” Riley said. “It’s a great college football environment.”

Besides being a great home team situation for the Utes, Riley noted that Utah is a good football team and that the program has been good for a long time.

Email: dirk@desnews.com

Photos of UCLA wide receiver and former San Clemente High football player Nick Pasquale, 20, grace the RV of friend Brain Miller of San Clemente Calif. during Pasquale's memorial held at San Clemente High on Sunday Sept. 8, 2013.  (AP Photo/Orange County Register, Cindy Yamanaka)    (Cindy Yamanaka, AP) Photos of UCLA wide receiver and former San Clemente High football player Nick Pasquale, 20, grace the RV of friend Brain Miller of San Clemente Calif. during Pasquale's memorial held at San Clemente High on Sunday Sept. 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Orange County Register, Cindy Yamanaka) (Cindy Yamanaka, AP)
Twitter: @DirkFacer

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