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Solving This Problem Won't Be Snap

Injuries to Paus, Olson leave UCLA with Sciarra and a big dilemma at quarterback position.

October 20, 2002|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

BERKELEY — As he watched the starting quarterback break his ankle and the backup quarterback sprain his shoulder, UCLA tailback Tyler Ebell wondered for a moment whether he could step in, line up behind the center and be next?

"At this level?" Ebell said. "Well, maybe, snap me the ball in the shotgun formation and let me run it."

Maybe it's not that bad yet for the Bruins, although losing to California, 17-12, losing Cory Paus for the season and then Drew Olson for who-knows-how-long certainly provides a good test of whether it's the right time to panic.

Here is Coach Bob Toledo's assessment of what happened Saturday at Memorial Stadium: "Cory got hurt, Drew got hurt, then it was pretty tough."

John Sciarra, a redshirt freshman, won the UCLA quarterback position by default and played at a level you might expect from someone in his situation. Sciarra completed one of seven passes for 10 yards. He also had a pass intercepted, was sacked twice and fumbled twice, losing one.

"I just wish I could have done more," Sciarra said. "Hopefully, I can come back and do better."

As for Paus, there seems to be no hope for his return to the UCLA huddle. Paus was surrounded when he dropped back to pass early in the third quarter and wound up under a pile of defenders. His pass was complete to Craig Bragg, but Paus never saw it. Instead, he was on his back near midfield, clutching his right ankle. A trainer had to cut away Paus' shoe with a pair of scissors and after his entire leg was placed in a protective wrap, Paus hopped onto the back of a cart.

Flanker Tab Perry tried to comfort Paus, who was waiting to be taken away.

"He said, 'I can't believe it happened like this,' " Perry said.

Paus, a history major, should have known better. One arm resting on his knee, Paus rode away, the only passenger on the injury train, straight down the field, disappearing into the tunnel.

Ebell said it was an eerie sight that he won't soon forget.

"It's nothing I ever expected to see," Ebell said. "When he was on the ground, holding his ankle and screaming, you knew it wasn't a sprain."

X-rays of Paus' right ankle showed a fracture, effectively ending a career that earned a place in the UCLA record book and also at the admissions desk at the hospital. Paus is second only to Cade McNown in passing yardage, third behind McNown and Tom Ramsey in completions and third behind McNown and Ramsey in touchdown passes.

But he also had more than his share of injuries. He had recurring thumb injuries in 2001. As a redshirt sophomore in 2000, Paus separated his right shoulder on the first play of the season against Alabama. He fractured his left collarbone in the Sun Bowl against Wisconsin.

He started seven games as a redshirt freshman, but was slowed by bruised ribs and a left shoulder injury, then was gone for the season when he fractured his left collarbone against Washington.

Toledo isn't sure what to do next. He said Olson's injury was a separated shoulder, but the postgame injury report listed it as a sprain, so Olson may be back, possibly in time for next week's game against Stanford. If not, there's Sciarra, and maybe using up what was supposed to be a redshirt season for freshman Matt Moore.

"I've got to sit down and think," Toledo said.

His players are already thinking a lot about what's ahead without Paus. It might start with more work for Ebell, who rushed 28 times for 102 yards and scored UCLA's only touchdown on an 11-yard run in the third quarter that tied the score, 10-10.

"He's our leader, but if it's John's turn, he has to step up and contribute," Ebell said. "He just needs to prepare."

Tight end Mike Seidman said the Bruins have to refocus, and quickly.

"Cory is a big loss, but we just have to come out ready with John," he said. "Our psyches are shot, but talk to me Monday and maybe we'll be better. I just know everybody is pretty bummed out right now."

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