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Rubley Will Confront His Moment of Truth : Rams: Quarterback will get his first start today against the 49ers, and Tollner says he won’t be kept under wraps.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

Ted Tollner, then the quarterback coach for the Chargers, stood alongside Billy Joe Tolliver in 1989 as Tolliver started his first game for San Diego.

Tolliver completed six of 17 passes for 41 yards with one interception before being pulled in a 10-7 defeat by Seattle.

A year later, John Friesz started for the first time in the NFL, with Tollner’s assistance.

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Friesz completed 11 of 22 passes for 98 yards with one interception in a 17-12 defeat by the Raiders.

Said Tollner, now the Rams’ quarterback coach: “I’m running out of first-game guys that I can be involved with.”

Ah, but here comes T.J. Rubley, who will end Jim Everett’s streak of 87 consecutive starts when he starts for the first time for the Rams today at Candlestick Park against the 49ers.

“There’s a difference here with Rubley as compared to Friesz and Tolliver,” Tollner said. “The repertoire of offense we’re going into this game with is not nearly as selective as it was with Friesz and Tolliver in their first starts.

“We played against teams that weren’t very good on offense (Seahawks and Raiders) and we thought if we didn’t have any interceptions, we had a chance of winning. We tried to reduce the things we were asking the quarterback to do.

“But (the 49ers are) an offensive team that is going to score some points. And this is a different individual we’re getting ready to play. It’s our opinion that he can handle it.

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“So we’re going to try and let him play. We’re not going to keep him under wraps.”

It will be up to the 49ers, who rank 15th on defense, to stop Rubley.

“When you play a young guy, there are two approaches the opposition usually considers,” said Ernie Zampese, Ram offensive coordinator. “They either come after the guy, try and knock him around, get him beat up a little bit and rattle him.

“Or, they decide to go with their normal four-man rush and just wait for the young guy to throw them the ball, figuring sooner or later they’re going to get some interceptions.”

The 49er defense has 16 sacks this season, 20th in the league. The opposition has averaged 200 yards per game passing and has completed 55% of its passes.

“I’ve never started a game so I don’t think I exactly intimidate them,” Rubley said. “I think they will try to get in a poker game with me and disguise their coverages and fake blitzes and so forth.

“I think they will also bring a lot of blitzes and try and put pressure on me. Instead of blitzing maybe 20% of the time they’ll kick it up to 35%. They won’t break from what they’ve been doing with their base defense, but they will play little games with me.”

Rubley took extra time to watch rookie Seattle quarterback Rick Mirer on videotape recently so he could study how defenses tried to befuddle him.

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“I expect teams to treat me the same way,” Rubley said. “They brought the blitz. That’s what the Lions did in the fourth quarter last week when I was in there.”

Rubley relieved Everett in the third quarter last week and completed 12 of 17 passes for 151 yards with two touchdowns.

“I would expect the 49ers to come after him and test him,” Tollner said. “But they have that film of what he did in the second half a week ago, so that will give them concern when they see how he handled things.”

The Rams will try to make Rubley’s starting debut less traumatic by running Jerome Bettis often. Opponents have averaged 4.4 yards against the 49ers, and Bettis, who has gained 300 yards in the last three games, is averaging 4.4 yards per run.

“I think we’re still inconsistent on defense,” said George Seifert, 49er coach. “I think we improved some last week (in a 28-14 victory over Phoenix) but we’re still a ways from where we have to be.”

The 49ers, who are trying to catch the Saints for the NFC West Division lead, struggled early this season because of Steve Young’s thumb injury. Young has recovered, but there have been grumblings from wide receiver Jerry Rice and running back Ricky Watters, who have asked to get the ball more often.

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“They weren’t getting the ball to Rice in the games they lost,” said Joe Vitt, Ram assistant. “In the games they’ve won, he’s been the guy.

“They’ve thrown the ball a lot more than they have in the past and I think that’s because they’ve gotten behind in games. But Watters is starting to get in sync now. He’s always had success against us and I think he’s a guy we have to account for in this game.”

The 49ers have defeated the Rams five consecutive times, and the Rams haven’t won in Candlestick Park since 1990.

This time, though, they go into Candlestick Park armed with Rubley and high expectations for better days ahead.

“I’m anxious to see what happens,” Tollner said. “I feel good about this guy and his chances of being successful.

“The biggest thing I keep telling myself, though, is, ‘Be patient. Be patient.’ I have high expectations for him . . . but now we have to see if he can get it done.”

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RAMS / TODAY’S GAME

* Opponent: San Francisco 49ers.

* Site: Candlestick Park.

* Time: 1 p.m.

* Records: Rams 2-5, 49ers 4-3.

* TV: Channel 2.

* Radio: KMPC (710).

* Rosters: C16.

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