Sept. 2, 2006
PASADENA, Calif. (AP) - Ben Olson threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns in his first college start, leading UCLA to a 31-10 victory over Utah.
The 6-foot-5, 227-pound redhead hadn't started a game since his senior year in high school nearly five years ago, when he was the nation's No. 1 recruit. He transferred from Brigham Young in January 2005, after redshirting his freshman year and spending two years on a Mormon church mission in Canada.
Last season, Olson played sparingly as the backup to Drew Olson after missing the first three games with a broken left throwing hand.
This Saturday was all his.
Olson showed the poise of his 23 years, completing 25 of 33 passes for 318 yards and no interceptions in a game that began in 96-degree heat at the Rose Bowl. It was the most yardage by a new Bruins starter since Tommy Maddox had 253 against Michigan in 1990.
Olson was perfect on his first seven passes, hitting seven different receivers, all for first downs.
The Utes had won their last four games against Pac-10 opponents, but they didn't mount a serious challenge in the second half.
Utah was 0-for-11 on third down, and managed 285 yards of total offense to UCLA's 418.
Olson was superior to Utah quarterback Brett Ratliff, who came in 2-0 as a starter after leading the Utes to season-ending victories over BYU and Georgia Tech in the Emerald Bowl.
Ratliff was 13-of-31 for 162 yards, with one touchdown and one interception.
UCLA extended its lead to 21-10 on Olson's 19-yard pass to Matt Willis, which completed a six-play, 72-yard drive in the third quarter.
He had the crowd of 59,709 cheering early when he connected with Ryan Moya over the middle for a 16-yard touchdown pass on UCLA's opening drive.
The Bruins then stopped Utah at its 44-yard line before being penalized for too many players, keeping the Utes' drive alive. But Ratliff's 30-yard pass to Marquis Wilson was called offsides and the Utes were forced to punt.
The Utes tied the game at 7 on a 26-yard pass from Ratliff to Brent Casteel in the second quarter, giving their sizable section of red-clad fans reason to cheer.
The Utes pulled Ratliff on their next possession, replacing him with Oklahoma transfer Tommy Grady, whose second pass was picked off by Alterraun Verner. It was UCLA's first interception return for a touchdown by a freshman since 1989.
Verner also had an 18-yard fumble recovery in the closing minutes.