LOS ANGELES — UCLA coach Jim Mora and the 16th-ranked Bruins returned to football practice on Monday for the first time since the death of walk-on receiver Nick Pasquale.
The team practiced in preparation for this weekend’s game at No. 23 Nebraska. Pasquale was hit by a car and killed while walking in his hometown of San Clemente on Sunday.
The 20-year-old receiver played in the final offensive series in UCLA’s season-opening victory over Nevada on Aug. 31. The Bruins were off last weekend and Pasquale had gone home to visit his family.
“It’s a very tragic time, a very difficult time,” Mora said.
Mora spent time with the freshman’s family on Sunday in San Clemente, where hundreds of Pasquale’s friends, family members and fellow football players gathered at the high school’s field for a vigil.
Pasquale’s older brother, A.J., played at the high school, where his father Mel Pasquale is director of football operations.
“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family, that’s the most important thing,” Mora said.
He closed all practices this week to the media, and UCLA players weren’t made available for comment.
“Our players are dealing with it each in their own way,” Mora said. “We think that’s the right way to do it. The important thing is they’re together. This is a very close team and they care desperately about each other.”
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini said the university’s thoughts and prayers were with Pasquale, his family, and UCLA.
“That’s a lot bigger than any football game,” he said. “Obviously, this has got to be a very difficult time for them.”
Pasquale was walking in the early morning hours on Sunday along a street when he was hit by a car, according to the Orange County coroner’s office.
The driver stayed at the scene and was not charged with any crime or infraction, said Lt. Jeff Hallock of the Orange County Sheriff’s Department.
“No drugs or alcohol have been found to have been factors for the driver,” Hallock said. “An autopsy report and later toxicology information will determine factors for the pedestrian.”
After starting to say that Pasquale had “only played a few plays,” Mora stopped mid-sentence when a video reporter in the back of the room began talking at the same time.
Mora told him “Shut up” before the reporter, who had been obscured by a potted plant that he was standing behind, emerged and motioned for the coach to continue talking.
Mora grew angry and chastised the reporter for displaying a lack of respect. The reporter apologized.
Mora got up, told the gathering, “I got nothing to say,” grabbed his backpack and left the room.