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Cowan Shows Poise in a Tough Spot

Times Staff Writer

UCLA quarterback Patrick Cowan did some good things in his first career start but not enough to prevent the Bruins from losing to No. 18 Oregon, 30-20, Saturday.

There were times when Cowan showed great sense by making plays out of nothing. But there were also plays when he failed to complete passes to open receivers, ending UCLA drives.

“You can always do better,” said Cowan, who completed 16 of 31 passes for 112 yards with no touchdowns and one interception.

Coach Karl Dorrell was pleased with Cowan, who started in place of injured Ben Olson, who will be sidelined at least three more weeks because of a knee injury.

“I thought he played admirably for his first road test,” Dorrell said. “This is a tough environment to play in.”

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Cowan, who lost his voice, completed passes to seven receivers but failed to connect on any deep throws against Oregon’s pressure defense.

“We had the crowd behind us,” Oregon’s linebacker Blair Phillips said. “Even for a veteran quarterback, it’s tough to play here. Once we starting disguising our coverages, and once the crowd got going, it took a toll on him.”

Center Robert Chai said Cowan did not seem stressed during the game.

“He was calm, making jokes and keeping us loose in the huddle,” Chai said. “Pat came out and really did a nice job for us, you can see his potential.”

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UCLA suffered a blow in the fourth quarter when an official review reversed a fourth-down fumble by Oregon running back Jonathan Stewart that was recovered by the Bruins. The officials ruled that Stewart was down before he lost the ball and the favorable mark gave the Ducks a first down. Oregon eventually kicked a field goal to take a 30-13 lead.

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The Bruins, who dropped to 0-2 on the road, hurt themselves with eight penalties for 91 yards. Three of the biggest penalties were called against defensive end Justin Hickman and fullback Michael Pitre, who picked up unnecessary roughness penalties in the first half, and defensive tackle Kevin Brown, who was called for roughing the kicker on a punt in the second half.

“We shot ourselves in the foot a couple of times,” Dorrell said. “We had some costly penalties on defense that extended some drives.”

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Oregon Coach Mike Bellotti on the Ducks’ victory: “UCLA is a good team, but I think we separated ourselves early from them. We made a mistake keeping it close, but overall, I was pleased with the way the offense got the ball down the field and the way the defense held them to no touchdowns early.”

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UCLA was three for 13 on third-down plays against Oregon, with many of the Bruins’ failed conversions coming on third-and-long plays.

“Once we got behind, we kept trying to do what we wanted to do,” UCLA offensive tackle Noah Sutherland said. “We got stuck in a lot of third-and long situations because we were not executing.”

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UCLA safety Chris Horton and linebacker Christian Taylor each had nine tackles. Cornerbacks Alterraun Verner and Rodney Van had seven.... Safety Dennis Keyes had his first interception of the season in the third quarter when he picked off a pass by Oregon backup quarterback Brady Leaf.

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lonnie.white@latimes.com


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