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Spaulding Roundup: New Mexico St Game Notes; Rios and Thigpen Close to Returning

News and notes as the UCLA Bruins prepare for this weekend's game against the New Mexico State Aggies.

Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

The Bruins are continuing to prepare for this weekend's return to the Rose Bowl to play New Mexico State. And as usual, Coach Mora met with the beat media after this morning's practice. While he avoided getting dragged into the mediagasm that is Shaq Evans' comments re. Southern Cal, Mora talked up his ability on the football field - describing him as one of the most underappreciated receivers on the west coast, if not the nation.

Later on in the presser, he was asked about the freshman QB for New Mexico State - lucky fellow has been given his first start this weekend... against Anthony Barr and the UCLA defense. Mora noted that he has been good at controlling the ball, but that the Bruin D has recent experience against his type of mobile field leader - being a similar style to Cody Fajardo and Taylor Martinez. Only not as experienced or as good (That last line is all me, and not Coach Mora).

Mora noted the need for depth on the defensive line - the ideal is to have a two-deep that he can be confident, and he is confident that he has that. Calling out Kylie Fitts and Kenny Clark in particular as young guys that are already capable of playing meaningful snaps on D.

Chris Foster has reported that Marcus Rios and Damien Thigpen will be dressed, but not available to play this weekend. Mora describes this step as part of an acclimation process as the two players get close to returning to the field. Damien has participated in practice over the last two weeks and is expected to return for the Pac-12 opener at Utah in two weeks. Marcus has yet to fully participate in practice and is not likely to reach his personal goal of playing against Utah, though at least it sounds like it is a matter of when, and not if he will be healthy enough to play again.

"We're letting the doctors guide us on that," Mora said. "The doctors, the athletic training staff and [strength and conditioning coach] Sal Alosi are the guys I'm relying on. We won't do anything until we talk with the family. If they're all OK, then let's get going."

Rios is expected to travel with the team to Salt Lake City and suit up for the game even if he is not cleared.

Jack Wang noted the motivational tactics that Lou Spanos used on Seali'i Epenesa before the Nebraska game, and how big his 4th quarter sack of Taylor Martinez - Seali'i's first as a Bruin - was. Also noted was the $550k that NMSU will receive for making the trip to Pasadena this weekend.

Last night, Nestor noted that UCLA and Adidas will be handing out blue rally 'Pasquale towels' and selling t-shirts with Nick's number 36 at the Rose Bowl on Saturday night before the New Mexico State game - 100% of the proceeds from the sale of those particular t-shirt on Saturday will go to the Nick Pasquale FoundationThe UCLA Store has now committed to selling the t-shirts beginning next week at Ackerman as well as online.

Unlike the shirts being sold at the Rose Bowl that have been donated by Adidas, ASUCLA has to pay for the later batch entering its inventory. So understandably, the net profits of sales from the second batch of shirts will be donated to the foundation, rather than the full sale price like those being sold on Saturday. The exact percentage going to the foundation is not yet clear, but Coach Mora did say during his presser that it will be at least 40% of the sale price of each shirt.

In another planned action for this Saturday's game, The Den is asking for donations to help create a banner thanking Nebraska for their compassion toward the Pasquale family and the UCLA community that will be displayed on Saturday night. From the fundraising page:

With all of the negative stories in sports, classy, genuine acts of kindness need to be highlighted. Nebraska’s students and fans need to be commended for reaching out to the Pasquale family and the UCLA community. The Den Student Action Committee would like to make a banner to show our thanks to the University of Nebraska, on behalf of the UCLA student body. We want to display this banner from the UCLA student section at the Rose Bowl during this Saturday’s UCLA Football game vs. New Mexico State.

After the game every player and coach will sign this banner and we will be sending it back to Lincoln, Nebraska in thanks to such inspiring actions.

Nice gesture by The Den, and I trust that they won't have any problem getting that banner funded and printed by Saturday.

For anyone considering making the road trip to Virginia for our game at UVa next fall, this might sound a little crazy to hear so soon, but you really should start looking at making hotel arrangements. I spent 3 years of my life in Charlottesville and can highly recommend making the trip, but keep in mind that it is a smallish town with limited lodging options that fill up quickly during busy weekends. Given that our game in C'ville also falls on Labor Day weekend, it is going to be a busy few days over there, and hotels are already beginning to fill up.