PASADENA, Calif. — In its first offensive play against New Mexico State, UCLA used only 10 players. Someone was missing, and he could never be replaced.
“Our 11th guy out there was Pacman,” said head coach Jim Mora.
The 13th-ranked Bruins honored their late teammate Nick Pasquale in nearly every way possible Saturday night at the Rose Bowl. T-shirts emblazoned with his No. 36 were sold with the proceeds going to the foundation created in his honor.
His number was also painted on the field and athletic director Dan Guerrero presented his family with a jersey between the first and second quarters.
A video tribute brought tears to the eyes of nearly 60,000. The student section had several signs but one in particular stood out – a particularly classy sign reading: “Thank You, Nebraska.”
But the move of sending out only 10 players in their opening series was the most impactful. It quickly made the rounds on social media, garnering the attention and reverence of the college football world.
“That was the players’ idea and Noel (Mazzone’s) idea. With Shaq (Evans) we ran him off the field,” Mora said. The players were fired up about doing that. I’m glad we did it.”
The game itself was one that Pasquale likely would have played in. Several players got in the mix and it reminded Mora of just how hard some of the lesser-known players work to be a part of the team.
“We learned a couple weeks ago, I don’t want to get all philosophical or emotional but so many of these kids have the dream of playing for UCLA in the Rose Bowl,” Mora said.
“And we can have a game like that and get a bunch of kids like that playing the game of football is awesome.”
Seeing reserves get playing time wasn’t something Mora or anyone else on the team took for granted this time.
“To see Sam Handler and Zach Hernandez catch passes and Ahmaad Harris catch a couple of passes and to see Ryan Davis, who busts his tail every week, carry the football, that’s awesome stuff right now,” Mora said.
Signs of Pasquale were all over the Rose Bowl from the signs in the crowd to the No. 36 written on all of the towels of the skill players. While other players across the country came together for a political cause to fight against the NCAA, the Bruins came together as a family to help one another heal.
Pasquale and his memory will continue to live on with the Bruins.
“I don’t think we could ever do enough to honor Nick and his family,” Mora said.