After playing his final high school game in 2001, quarterback Ben Olson waited nearly five years to make his first college start. But in his fifth game as UCLA's No. 1 quarterback, he tore a ligament in his left knee and has not played since.
"Well, he's disappointed," Coach Karl Dorrell said of Olson, who returned to practice in early November only to watch Patrick Cowan lead the Bruins to three consecutive victories to finish the regular season and earn an invitation to the Emerald Bowl.
"But that's going to be natural with any competitor," Dorrell added. "He wants to help the team. He wants to get back out there and do what he can.... He's going through tough circumstances, given how things have shaken down this year."
For Olson, who was injured in the first half of UCLA's victory over Arizona on Oct. 7, the season may not have played out to expectations, but there is still one game left.
Dorrell has named Cowan the starter for the Emerald Bowl but said Olson needs to remain ready.
The former starter has no quibble with that.
"I'm feeling real good right now," said Olson, who has completed 63.7% of his passes for 822 yards and five touchdowns. "I'm not wearing a brace anymore and I'm able to go out there and do the things I want. All I can do is to try and get better. You have to take what you're given and just build on that."
Said Dorrell, "There is always next year and there is what I always call 'the play away syndrome' when you are a play away from getting in there and doing it just like you did it before. Ben is going to compete and continue to work and get better. He's going to get himself in a position that he once was and that's the kind of attitude that I want."
Based on career coaching records, the Emerald Bowl should be no contest -- in Florida State's favor, given the success of Bobby Bowden.
Bowden has won more games than any college coach in history with a 365-113-4 record in 47 seasons. In 31 years at Florida State, Bowden's teams are 292-81-4 and since 1982, the Seminoles are 17-6-1 in bowl games.
"I'm just starting out and he's at the top," said Dorrell, who is preparing for his fourth bowl in four years at UCLA. "I had a chance to visit with him a couple of times in my career. I love him as a person and as a coach. He's a very personable guy and obviously he has a tremendous amount of experience. ... He's had great teams and good coaches. He does all the right things for college football so he is definitely one of the best in the game, if not the best."
Florida State, which finished the regular season 6-6, conducted two-a-day workouts this week after nearly a three-week layoff since the Seminoles lost to Florida on Nov. 25.
Bowden told the Florida Times-Union that the Seminoles' offense has responded well after the time off.
"As you practice, you begin to get the feel of it back in there again," he said. "I think in bowl games, the passing teams have the better chance. You can get the passing game easier than the running game."
UCLA will leave for San Francisco on Friday and practice at San Francisco City College leading to the Emerald Bowl, which will be played at AT&T Park on Wednesday.