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Originally published September 23, 2007 at 12:00 AM | Page modified September 23, 2007 at 2:12 AM

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UCLA backup QB does heavy lifting

Patrick Cowan likely would have fueled another quarterback controversy at UCLA, until he joined Ben Olson on the sideline with injuries...

Special to The Seattle Times

PASADENA, Calif. -- Patrick Cowan likely would have fueled another quarterback controversy at UCLA, until he joined Ben Olson on the sideline with injuries.

Cowan, UCLA's backup quarterback, made his first start of the season and did just enough to help the Bruins maintain a lead over Washington. Then Cowan left with a sprained right knee early in the fourth quarter and turned over UCLA's offense to walk-on McLeod Bethel-Thompson.

Still, Washington couldn't take advantage of the precarious situation. The Huskies couldn't stop the run, nor the pass, no matter who was under center, and UCLA won 44-31 Saturday at the Rose Bowl.

UCLA made Bethel-Thompson's life quite easy in what otherwise could've been a harried situation. Tailback Chris Markey scored on a 72-yard run early in the fourth quarter on Bethel-Thompson's first series under center and UCLA went ahead by 14 points. Later, Matthew Slater returned a kickoff 85 yards for a score to take more pressure off Bethel-Thompson.

"Of course you're happy when that happens," Bethel-Thompson said. "I love touchdowns."

Bethel-Thompson, a redshirt freshman, wasn't needed for any last-minute heroics. Cowan already had done enough. Bethel-Thompson didn't even attempt a pass. He simply handed the ball off and got out of the way.

Cowan completed 17 of 30 passes for 147 yards, one touchdown and one interception. He sat in front of his locker after the game with crutches nearby, but he shed no light on his injury.

"I don't want to talk right now," Cowan said.

He wouldn't say when he was injured but while he said that, video of Dan Howell's interception and the hit he took flashed on the flat screen TV nearby. Cowan immediately grabbed his knee after the hit.

Cowan found Dominque Johnson -- who beat Matt Mosley -- in the corner of the end zone for a 2-yard pass early in the second quarter.

Quarterback Olson didn't start after suffering concussion-like symptoms after hits he sustained last week against Utah. He didn't practice all week.

On UCLA's opening drive of the second half, UCLA scored on a 13-play drive. Cowan made a big play on the drive, scrambling in and out of defenders for a 12-yard gain. Kahlil Bell scored from 8 yards out, and Cowan pumped his fist in celebration as UCLA built a 17-10 lead.

Cowan didn't suit up for UCLA's first three games of the season because he was nursing a hamstring injury suffered in fall practice Aug. 20. He returned to practice on Tuesday and learned on Wednesday that he'd be the starting quarterback against the Huskies.

Last year, Cowan started the final eight games of the season after Olson suffered a knee injury. Olson was the quarterback for Washington's win over UCLA, so the Huskies hadn't seen Cowan except on film.

Copyright © 2007 The Seattle Times Company

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