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Worlds of Cook, Fien Collide in Bid for Job as Bruin Quarterback

September 03, 1993|DANA HADDAD

Wayne Cook and Ryan Fien shared much on Sept. 12, 1992, the night of UCLA's opener at the Rose Bowl. Two former top-notch high school quarterbacks, they both played in the Marmonte League.

Cook, from Newbury Park High, is 6 feet 3, 205 pounds. Fien, from Royal in Simi Valley, 6-3, 206. Both have powerful arms. Both can throw the deep ball with accuracy. But they existed in distinctly different worlds. Cook, 21, a sophomore, was Coach Terry Donahue's undisputed starter. Fien, 18, a freshman, carried a clipboard as one of three of Cook's caddies.

But that changed quickly in the second quarter of UCLA's 37-14 victory over Cal State Fullerton. Cook was sacked and suffered torn ligaments in his right knee. Suddenly, the gap between Cook and Fien began to close. Their lives, centered on playing quarterback for the Bruins, began to converge.

The two waged a hotly contested battle for the starting position until Thursday, when Donahue selected Cook.

Fien, 19 and a sophomore, threatened to take away Cook's job since spring practice. A year ago, neither imagined this. Especially Cook, 22, a junior entering his fourth season at UCLA who will return to another Rose Bowl opening night against California on Saturday at 7. Until Thursday, Cook wasn't sure if he'd get another chance after the injury that started the competition between the two.

"A guy hit me from the back side and I pretty much knew I jacked (the knee) up," he said, flashing back to the knee injury. "It's hard to explain--you just know. When I got up, there was no stability.

"I called the trainers out, and I said to myself, 'I'm done.' "

As Cook limped off, Fien's head began to spin.

"As soon as he went down, people on the team started saying, 'Get ready. Get ready,' " Fien said. "Here I was, only being at UCLA for about 2 1/2 weeks. I didn't know the offense, and people were saying, 'Get ready. Get ready.'

"I got a big adrenaline rush. It wasn't because of fear. It was excitement (and) a bit of wonder. It hit me like a ton of bricks. 'I could be playing.' "

Cook, who subsequently underwent reconstructive surgery, completed eight of 13 passes for 155 yards and one touchdown in a season that lasted less than 30 minutes.

Fien got a chance to play later in the season and showed he wasn't ready. He played only briefly against Washington State and Arizona State, completing nine of 27 for 73 yards, no touchdowns and one interception.

Coaches say Cook and Fien have been virtually even in two-a-days, despite the fact Cook has been slowed by a pulled left quadriceps muscle in his left leg. The knee, Cook said, is better than before.

"Honestly," he said, "it's the one thing that hasn't bothered me."

Fien was the bigger threat, however, until Thursday. And the UCLA quarterbacking scenario is very different this year than last. Before getting the unfortunate news, Fien had no doubts about his ability to take the reins.

"In scrimmages, I've been able to move the team and throw some touchdowns," Fien said. "Last year, I was a timid little freshman out there. I was scared to speak to the older guys. Now I'm starting to get the feeling back that I had in high school. You can get on your guys a little bit. You're the leader.

"I came here to be a starting quarterback. I'm this close right now. I'm not going to back out or look at any other option. And I hope the coaches don't use the age difference as a factor. They say the best one's going to play."

Cook conceded he felt

threatened by the presence of Fien and Rob Walker, who was eliminated from the battle for No. 1 last week.

"This is the most important thing in my life," Cook said. "Man, I've been working on this for so long. Now I have another chance, and to not get it . . . I'd be crushed."

Through the ordeal, Cook and Fien have become friends. Cook plans to make a little side bet with Fien about a football game on Oct. 29. That's the night Newbury Park plays host to Royal.

CSUN just like Miami: In its search for a formidable foe to replace 1992 opponent USC for the 1993 home opener Saturday, San Diego State failed to attract a marquee team. Instead it landed Division I-AA Cal State Northridge of the American West Conference, an eyebrow-raising choice for the Aztecs' Sebastian Glaze.

"I'm surprised we're playing them," said Glaze from Granada Hills High. "But we're going to treat them like another opponent. We're going to treat them just like Miami."

Sebastian and his cousin George Glaze (San Fernando), who pronounce their name GLAW-ZAY, are a pair of reserve defensive linemen, both seniors. Playing against their neighborhood squad is no special occasion, they said.

What concerns them more is San Diego State's image as a bad-boy team. That must change, they said.

SDSU triggered bench-clearing brawls in its final two games last season, both on national TV.

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