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SPORTS EXTRA / COLLEGE FOOTBALL 2000 | PAC-10 PREVIEW

In Age of Quarterback, Huskies Have the Edge

August 26, 2000|JIM HODGES | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Let's see, there's Carson Palmer at USC, Cory Paus at UCLA, Kyle Boller at California and Jason Gesser at Washington State.

Sophomores.

And Jeff Krohn at Arizona State.

Freshman. A year ago, he was a walk-on.

There's Joey Harrington at Oregon and Jonathan Smith at Oregon State.

Juniors. Closer to what you want.

There's Randy Fasani at Stanford, a senior who played mostly tight end and linebacker last season. And Ortege Jenkins, a senior who was a part-time starter at Arizona for two seasons.

And, ah, there he is. Marques Tuiasosopo at Washington, an experienced senior quarterback, the only one in the Pacific 10 Conference.

History shows it takes a senior quarterback--or a reasonable facsimile--to raise a team to the top of the Pac-10.

Stanford came out of nowhere last season to get to the Rose Bowl for the first time in 26 years. It took senior Todd Husak to take the Cardinal there.

UCLA won the league two years ago, and it took Cade McNown four seasons to get the Bruins a championship.

Washington State needed Ryan Leaf, who was a junior but had three years of starting experience to get the Cougars to Pasadena.

And Arizona State had a senior named Jake Plummer guiding it to the Rose Bowl.

It's a pass-happy league, Arizona notwithstanding, and with defenses geared to stop the pass, mobility in a quarterback is paramount.

"We run wide-open offenses, and the defenses against them are very sophisticated," Bruin Coach Bob Toledo says. "For a young quarterback to get used to those defenses is very difficult."

In other leagues, teams can survive with underclassmen. Wisconsin played in the Rose Bowl with Brooks Bollinger, a freshman.

Florida State was led to a national championship by Chris Wenke, older because of his baseball career but a junior in football experience. And the Seminoles struggled to beat Virginia Tech, quarterbacked by Michael Vick, a freshman.

"Yeah, but those are different offenses," Toledo says. "And you look at Vick. Every once in a while, he turns the wrong way and fumbles."

So you go to the West Coast, where they throw, throw and throw.

And run when they have to.

That puts the key to a championship in Tuiasosopo's hands while everybody else tries to age their quarterbacks before the quarterbacks' mistakes age the coach.

It's a race that Tuiasosopo leads by default. And it's why anybody else going to the Rose Bowl would be something of an upset.

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