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San Diego • Weather conditions were much worse Tuesday as the BYU Cougars practiced at nearby Helix High in preparation for Thursday's Poinsettia Bowl, but the overall practice was much better than it was on Monday, coach Bronco Mendenhall said.

A day after saying the Cougars were "sluggish" and "unfocused" in their first practice at the bowl site, Mendenhall heaped praise on his team after it went for about 90 minutes — mostly in pouring rain — on Tuesday.

"It was good — sharper and better than I thought yesterday's was," Mendenhall said. "We were a little bit more adjusted, and focused. ... We framed the practice to where we needed to get a lot of work done. ... And so whether it was raining or snowing or sunny, I think our mindset was going to be right, and it was today."

Although it has rained off and on Monday and Tuesday in the San Diego area, forecasts for Thursday's 6 p.m. MST kickoff are for temperatures in the low 60s, and clear skies with no chance of rain.

After practice, BYU's traveling party of more than 300 enjoyed an afternoon at the San Diego Zoo.

Linebacker Kyle Van Noy said the hospitality, activities and accommodations have been first-rate, but that the players are putting game preparation first and foremost this week.

"I am taking it as a business trip, and so is everyone else," Van Noy said. "I am still trying to establish myself. I have goals that I need to accomplish. I want to get places, and I think other players do, too. Most of all, we want to win the game. We are taking it pretty seriously."

Is it a rivalry?

San Diego's media outlets have painted Thursday's game as a bitter matchup of old rivals, with plenty of "we hate BYU" articles and broadcasts in the weeks since the opponents were paired. But when a local reporter asked Mendenhall if BYU feels the same way about SDSU, he shook his head.

"We don't [feel the same way]," he said. "It is a nice regional matchup, a lot of history in the Mountain West Conference, but it is not a rivalry game for us. It is another great game, but we don't consider it that way."

Quarterback update

James Lark took the majority of reps again on Tuesday, and Mendenhall said nothing has changed regarding Riley Nelson's rib cartilage injury. Lark said he is taking in a few of San Diego's attractions, but mostly has spent time studying the Aztecs' 3-3-5 defense and SDSU's personnel.

"It is nothing we can't handle," he said of SDSU's unique scheme on defense.

Postseason participation

Senior offensive tackle Braden Brown will play in the 88th Annual East-West Shrine Game on Jan. 19, in St. Petersburg, Fla. The game will be televised by the NFL Network. Brown has started in 38 straight games at right tackle for the Cougars and leads the team in knockdown blocks.

Senior defensive end Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah has been invited to play in the Senior Bowl, which is Jan. 26 in Mobile, Ala.

Monday, the NFL Players Association announced that BYU senior linebacker Uona Kaveinga will play in the 2013 NFLPA Collegiate Bowl, which is on Jan. 19 at the Home Depot Center on the campus of Cal State Dominguez Hills.

Twitter: @drewjay —

Poinsettia Bowl

BYU vs. San Diego State

Thursday, 6 p.m. MST