Sept. 1, 1999
LOS ANGELES - Please excuse Drew Bennett for not celebrating too much after becoming UCLA's new starting quarterback.
The junior, who spent the last two seasons backing up the graduated Cade McNown before beating out freshman Cory Paus, has more to do than just fill big shoes. Bennett has to help a team whose national championship dreams ended with a heartbreaking 38-21 loss to Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl move on.
Bennett gets his first chance to begin erasing last season's disappointment Saturday when the No. 17 Bruins open their season at home against Boise State.
Despite McNown's departure, UCLA's offense might not miss a beat. Bennett has only thrown five passes in college, but he'll be throwing the ball to perhaps the most dangerous receiving trio in the country in Danny Farmer, Brian Poli-Dixon and Freddie Mitchell.
"It's kind of like, who are you going to cover? Try to stop one of us," Poli-Dixon said. "We've got the best corps of wide receivers in the nation."
Boise State will try and slow those receivers down, but the Broncos aren't likely to have much success. Farmer had a school-record 1,274 receiving yards and nine touchdowns in 1998 and Poli-Dixon caught 44 passes for 712 yards and 10 touchdowns. Mitchell's season was interrupted by a broken leg, but he has the look of a future star.
UCLA shouldn't have to worry about an offense that scored 476 points last season. If the Bruins want to improve upon last season's 10-2 mark, they have to concentrate on upgrading a defense that allowed 340 points.
Boise State may have trouble focusing on UCLA. The team is still mourning the death of freshman defensive tackle Paul Reyna, who died from a head injury he suffered during a scrimmage two weeks ago.
The Broncos, 7-5 last season, only began play in Division I-A in 1996. Boise State, which plays in the Big West Conference, is 0-3 against ranked opponents since then.
By TOM CASTRO
AP MegaSports Writer