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Paus’ Health, Statusas Starter Improving

The winner in the three-way quarterback battle appears to be the incumbent.

Cory Paus shook off a thumb injury well enough to make a strong bid to retain his starting status Thursday, splitting practice time with Ryan McCann, who has been third string all season.

Scott McEwan, whose strong performance in the second half against Stanford made him the front-runner early in the week, continues to be hobbled by a sprained right ankle and probably will not play at Washington State.

“Scotty is still limping a little bit,” UCLA Coach Bob Toledo said. “He is the least ready but could be the third guy.”

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McCann, who completed 60 of 120 passes last season, threw much better Thursday than he had early in the week.

But it appears Paus will start unless his thumb gets worse today.

Paus has started 22 games in three years and this season has completed 73 of 138 passes for 1,267 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.

However, he completed only five of 16 for 105 yards against Stanford, the Bruins’ only loss, and would have lost his starting job had McEwan not been injured.

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Center Troy Danoff is doubtful because of a separated shoulder and sprained ankle, raising the prospect of a quarterback with a sore thumb taking snaps from John Ream, a freshman making his first start.

“John will do fine,” line coach Mark Webber said. “He has a good understanding of the offense. He’s a tough kid with good football sense.”

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The last time UCLA visited Pullman was 1997. Only four current Bruins made that trip, and one, receiver Brian Poli-Dixon, won’t go this time because he is injured.

That leaves safety Marques Anderson, defensive end Kenyon Coleman and fullback Ed Ieremia-Stansbury to recall the bitter 37-34 season-opening loss that eventually cost the Bruins a Rose Bowl berth when they won their last 10 in a row.

“That was a back-and-forth battle that didn’t go our way,” Anderson said. “That was my first game, something I never forgot.”

UCLA went to the Cotton Bowl that season, defeating Texas A&M.;

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