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Bruins need a quarterback, fast

Bethel-Thompson is inexperienced, and Olson and Cowan are injured, meaning Rasshan could be next in line for the job.

October 07, 2007|Jaime Cárdenas | Times Staff Writer

When Ben Olson was hit by a blitzing Tom Zbikowski late in the first quarter, the Bruins not only lost the football -- and arguably the game -- they also gained something no team wants: chaos at quarterback.

Zbikowski's sack, which stripped Olson of the ball and caused the quarterback to injure his knee, was the beginning of the end for UCLA on Saturday.

The Bruins held the Fighting Irish to a field goal on that series, but their offense was never the same and lost to previously winless Notre Dame, 20-6.

The early diagnosis on Olson's injury is a sprained left knee.

He was on crutches after the game and declined to speak to reporters, but Bruins Coach Karl Dorrell said it wasn't major.

"We do feel the structure in his knee is pretty good," he said. "We don't know the sprain -- what it is -- from a medical term yet, so we are going to get an MRI and just see where we are at, but we think all of his ligaments are intact and in good shape."

Olson is the second Bruins quarterback this season to suffer a knee injury, this after missing most of last season because of a knee injury as well.

Backup Patrick Cowan suffered a partial tear of his MCL against Washington two weeks ago and has been sidelined.

Walk-on redshirt freshman McLeod Bethel-Thompson, who replaced Olson, turned the ball over five times in the second half.

Two of those turnovers led to Notre Dame touchdowns, which turned a 6-6 tie into a 20-6 Irish victory.

"Given the circumstances we've had at the quarterback position. . . . It's been a difficult, difficult season so far," Dorrell said.

"It was unfortunate that Ben went down and we had Mac come in.

"He did a nice job, given the circumstances -- the type of game and his experience."

Dorrell launched into prevent-mode during the news conference when he requested that reporters not ask him about the team's "issues" at the position.

"What's Pat's availability? How long is Ben going to be out? All those things," Dorrell said. "Do we bring [wide receiver] Osaar [Rasshan], I'm sure that's a question you may want to bring up, but that's something we'll have to consider. We also have to consider the young quarterback that's in our program [freshman Chris Forcier] that we are trying to redshirt.

"I don't have all the answers today, so don't ask me today."

Rasshan, who came into the program as a quarterback out of nearby Pomona Garey High, switched to receiver this season but said Dorrell told him to be prepared to play quarterback once again, beginning with practice next week.

"Coach Dorrell, he told me he couldn't throw me in this week, because I didn't have any practice time, but that I'm going to go back in there this next week," Rasshan said.

"I feel very comfortable with it."

UCLA does not play for two weeks, when it will play host to third-ranked California.

Who'll be the starter? Who knows.

Will Bethel-Thompson get another chance?

Will Olson and Cowan be healthy?

"Those are things we have to consider over this weekend and move forward," Dorrell said.

How far can the Bruins get without Olson?

"I really don't want to comment on that," wide receiver Dominique Johnson said.

"We just have to play hard with whoever is back there."



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