Olson Takes Step Toward Starting Job

Times Staff Writer

UCLA’s defense looked sharp at times and two walk-on receivers had big days, but the story of Saturday’s two-hour intrasquad scrimmage was the play of redshirt sophomore quarterbacks Ben Olson and Patrick Cowan in front of about 6,000 at Drake Stadium.

“I’ve been here for a couple of years, and nearly each time, we have a quarterback controversy [for the Bruins’ annual scrimmage],” said fifth-year senior center Robert Chai. “I thought both quarterbacks did good. They both threw the ball well and did things when they were called to do so.”

With the Bruins’ Sept. 2 opener against Utah two weeks away, Olson seemed to move a step closer toward being named the starter with a solid effort, completing 14 of 23 passes for 156 yards and two touchdowns with one intercepted.

But Cowan also had his moments. After a slow start, he finished with three touchdown passes, completing 10 of 25 attempts for 92 yards.

“They both had bright spots,” first-year offensive coordinator Jim Svoboda said.


The Bruins were without four of their top six receivers in Junior Taylor (knee), Joe Cowan (knee), Gavin Ketchum (groin) and Marcus Everett (hamstring), who were injured or kept out for precautionary reasons.

“Having two quarterbacks is a good problem to have,” Svoboda said. “But we would like to name a starter; the sooner the better.... It will give the guy time to get the reps in time for Utah.”

Senior Matt Willis, who tried out for football last year after being a sprinter on the track team, led UCLA in receiving with eight catches for 72 yards and one touchdown.

Fellow senior walk-on Andrew Baumgartner caught two passes for 32 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown pass from Olson against the first-team defense, the first touchdown of the scrimmage.

Behind new coordinator DeWayne Walker, UCLA’s defense stopped the offense on its first seven possessions and junior cornerback Michael Norris intercepted an Olson pass to end the eighth drive.

Although the Bruins gave up a couple of touchdowns late in the scrimmage, the defense blitzed often and created problems for UCLA’s running game most of the afternoon.

“We performed well enough to let everybody know that we’re going to have a different style of defense,” strong safety Chris Horton said. “We had all 11 guys running and flying to the ball.”