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Cowan Stays Low-Key After Victory

Sophomore takes over for injured Olson in the first quarter and throws for 201 yards and two touchdowns to spark UCLA's win.

October 08, 2006|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

Patrick Cowan stood alone in front of his locker, freshly showered and looking every bit the starting quarterback at UCLA.

He had been diplomatic after replacing injured Ben Olson and leading the Bruins to a 27-7 win over Arizona on Saturday at the Rose Bowl. He didn't celebrate wildly or brag about his steady play.

Olson, the 23-year-old who beat out Cowan fair and square for the starting job this season, had crumpled to the field in the first quarter after taking a hit and his knee was rolled on. Olson was watching an incomplete pass. Cowan was watching Olson.

"Just be ready to go in," Cowan said. "That's always what you have to be thinking when you're the backup quarterback. Be ready to go in."

Cowan, a 6-foot-5, 224-pound sophomore who played at Bellflower St. John Bosco High, had a moment to collect himself.

Olson's injury came on a third-and-three play with 6 minutes 47 seconds left in the first quarter. His pass to receiver Matt Willis had been thrown into the ground.

While Arizona went three and out, Cowan stood calmly. He talked to Coach Karl Dorrell. His teammates, three or four Cowan said, came up and told him, "You can do this."

On Cowan's first play, Dorrell called for a pass, nothing fancy, but the quarterback's arm was fast as a whip and the ball smacked fullback Michael Pitre in the hands.

The sound of football hitting flesh was loud. "Great pass," Pitre said.

It was good for an eight-yard gain. Cowan's second pass was completed over the middle for 19 yards to Logan Paulsen. The Bruins tight end was hit hard but held onto the ball. Cowan's third pass was for seven yards and a touchdown to split end Marcus Everett.

If there had been jitters, they were gone.

Cowan is the son of a quarterback. His father, Tim, played for Washington in the early 1980s. Cowan's older brother, Joe, is a UCLA receiver and had caught more passes than any returning Bruin.

Joe has been sidelined because of a knee injury this season and hasn't played.

"I wasn't surprised at what Pat did," Joe said, offering no hint of emotion and few other words.

Across the way Olson walked into the locker room on crutches. "It's a tough thing for Ben," Joe said softly. "He works hard too."

Cowan's statistics -- he completed 20 of 29 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns without an interception -- were worth a smile and a fist pump.

Asked if he felt like UCLA's starting quarterback, Cowan said, "I feel like myself."

Willis, who caught four passes for 30 yards, said the Bruins believe in Cowan.

"Sometimes if your starting quarterback goes down there's sort of a big letdown for a while," he said. "For whatever reason, you could see it in everybody's eyes, we just knew Pat could get the job done."

Cowan gave all the right answers. His competition against Olson in the off-season "prepared me for tonight," he said.

"It's unfortunate I got my chance like this," he said.

"I wasn't really nervous. You just have to be ready to play. Once you get on the field, there's no going back."

But finally, when everybody was gone and it was only Cowan, he released a smile.

And he revealed his favorite moment in the game: "When we kneeled down at the end," he said. "We were winners. I made it."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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