SALT LAKE CITY — After a difficult week, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson is busy preparing for Saturday’s rivalry game against BYU.
The sophomore returned to his hometown of San Clemente, Calif., on Sunday to attend the funeral services of his best friend Nick Pasquale. The UCLA wide receiver was killed when he was hit by a car a week earlier.
“I was really happy I got to go home. That was really big for me,” Wilson said. “The service was really great. It was really good to just go back and see all my friends and family and stuff.”
Pasquale’s death, he added, has been difficult to handle.
“I’m still in shock still to this day, but I know he’s always there with me,” said Wilson, who rushed for three touchdowns and passed for two more in Utah’s 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State last Saturday.
Wilson did so with a heavy heart, a day before his best friend was laid to rest in California.
“Travis is a tough kid and he’s a competitor,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “I think you saw that Saturday night and he’ll bounce back and be ready to play this week.”
Following Tuesday’s practice, Whittingham noted that Wilson’s mindset was good and praised his toughness and resiliency.
“This is definitely going to be a great test and I’m really excited to play this game,” said Wilson, who led the Utes to 539 yards of total offense against the Beavers.
GEARING UP: As is the case with every road game, the Utes are preparing by having the offense spend time practicing indoors with crowd noise blaring over loud speakers this week. Whittingham stressed the importance of being able to communicate with one another in a hostile environment.
Despite the intensity of the rivalry, Whittingham said the Utes are approaching Saturday’s game at LaVell Edwards Stadium in similar fashion to going to venues like Oregon’s Autzen Stadium or facing Washington in Seattle.
“We don’t handle it any differently,” Whittingham said. “Once the game starts the environment isn’t really as big of a factor as you may think.
GOING BACK: Utah defensive coordinator Kalani Sitake acknowledged that returning to his alma mater is always special. Sitake was a BYU fullback in 1994 and from 1997-2000.
“That campus and that school mean something to me. I met my wife there and made a lot of good friends there,” Sitake said. “I choose to be in this profession. There’s been a lot of influential people there that I value as friends, so it’s always a special time to go back there and reminisce about my times.”
Sitake, however, emphasized that there’s much more to it.
“When we get there it’s time to do business and time to get to work,” he said.
HADLEY’S SUSPENSION: Whittingham said the suspension of BYU starting linebacker Spencer Hadley is a “non-factor.” The Cougars will just move on to the next guy for them, just as the Utes have with the injury to Brian Blechen and others.
“It doesn’t change the game plan,” Whittingham said.
Copyright 2017, Deseret News Publishing Company