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UCLA REPORT

Cowan still the starter for the Emerald Bowl

December 16, 2006|Peter Yoon | Times Staff Writer

Patrick Cowan will start at quarterback against Florida State in the Emerald Bowl, Coach Karl Dorrell said Friday, ending speculation that Ben Olson might take back the job.

"We think that he's deserving of that at this time," Dorrell said of Cowan. "He finished the season 3-0 and he was the most valuable player in our last game."

Cowan took over as the starter when Olson tore a knee ligament Oct. 7 against Arizona. He has started the last seven games and was instrumental in UCLA's upset over No. 2 USC on Dec. 2, when he rushed for a team-high 72 yards and a touchdown.

He also suffered a concussion in that game and was not cleared to practice until Thursday. He said he was feeling much better Friday in his first practice since the USC game.

"I felt fine Sunday," he said. "But [getting cleared] takes a few days to process. They slow-played it a little, but I'm fine now."

Cowan said he probably got the concussion during the first quarter, but he didn't know it until a few days later.

A bone-jarring hit by Rey Maualuga in the fourth quarter, he said, was "icing on the cake."

"I had some headaches, but I didn't think it was much," he said. "You usually feel a little shaken up after games, but after a few days, I knew I probably had a concussion."

He said he "was not all there," so he sought medical treatment. After MRIs came back negative, he was ordered to rest and finally cleared, but said he was not timid about taking another hit.

"I'm sure I've probably had other concussions throughout my career and didn't know about them," he said. "You get hit, it's part of the game."

As for being named the starter in the Dec. 27 Emerald Bowl, Cowan said he would have practiced the same way no matter who was starting.

"It's nice to know, but it wouldn't have changed any work I put into the game," he said.

Dorrell said that Cowan and Olson, both sophomores, would compete for the starting job again next season.

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Defensive coordinator DeWayne Walker, rumored to be a candidate for vacant head-coaching positions at Stanford and Boston College, is staying put, according to Dorrell.

"We have an agreement now, so it's something we're excited about," Dorrell said.

Walker is credited for turning around a defense that was 113th in the nation in 2005. The Bruins were 33rd this season and Walker gained national attention by devising the plan to shut down USC in the 13-9 Bruins victory.

"He's committed to continue to build our defense to be one of the best in the country," Dorrell said. "He's committed to being here, he likes the progress that he's made with the defensive side at this point and he knows we can be a lot better."

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peter.yoon@latimes.com

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