Rocky Long UNLV news conference
San Diego State coach Rocky Long addressing reporters at a news conference Oct. 3, 2017, before the UNLV game. YouTube screen shot

A pregame tribute to the victims and heroes of the Las Vegas shooting at the Mandalay Bay on the Strip is planned for the San Diego State-UNLV football game at Sam Boyd Stadium this Saturday.

“Our thoughts and prayers continue to be with the victims and the families impacted by this senseless act of violence,” UNLV athletics director Desiree Reed-Francois said. “While football is just a game, it can also serve as a rallying point of unity and allow all of us to recognize the incredible heroism displayed by so many this week. We are all extremely proud of our community’s response over the last couple of days.”

At least 59 people were killed and at least 527 more were injured when Stephen Paddock fired into the crowd at Route 91, an outdoor country music festival, from the 32nd floor of his hotel room at the Mandalay Bay, making it the deadliest mass shooting to date in U.S. history.

The ceremony will honor the victims and recognize the first responders. Aztecs coach Rocky Long his team will take UNLV’s lead with regard to the pregame ceremony.

“Obviously it’s their community, it’s their stadium so they’re taking the lead on what’s going to happen,” he said at a news conference Tuesday. “They’ll tell us what it is and we’ll fall in line like we should.”

Players from both UNLV and SDSU will sport a ‘Vegas Strong’ red ribbon decal on their helmets at the game Saturday in Las Vegas. Photo courtesy of UNLV

In a show of unity, both teams will affix red ribbon decals to their helmets with the words ‘Las Vegas’ on them. The coaching staff will also wear the ribbons and the ribbon decal will also appear on the playing field. Fans in attendance will also receive a wearable red ribbon upon entry.

The No. 19 Aztecs and the Rebels are tied for first place in the Mountain West Conference‘s Western Division, so it’s an important game for both teams, but Long said it’s not as important as “everything else that’s going on.”

“Obviously, it’s a much different week than normal. The tragedy that’s happened in Las Vegas has changed the feel of this game,” he said. “I’m sure there are a lot of things that are going to be different at the game and at game time.”

There was, however, no talks of canceling the game or changing the venue from either team, Long said. There are five players on the team who are from Las Vegas, so they are affected by the shooting more than the other players on the team, Long said, but he was able to keep the team focused on football by holding practice as usual.

“Well, I think they have to be mature guys that can handle more than just one thing,” he said. “Obviously, we’re not going to change practice or meeting times or how we get ready for the game or anything like that. We’re going to get ready exactly the same way we always do.”

A friend of senior linebacker Tyler Morris, who is from Henderson, Nevada, a suburb of Las Vegas, died in the shooting, senior safety Trey Lomax said.

“So it’s bigger than football at that point,” he said. “As far as this week, we’re still preparing like it’s another game on our schedule but I’m assuming when we get out there it will be a different vibe and we’ll probably feel it out there.”

Kickoff for the Aztecs-Rebels game is scheduled for 7:45 p.m. in Las Vegas. The game will be shown nationally on ESPN2.

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