Sept. 14, 1999
LOS ANGELES - UCLA will try to focus in on Saturday's opponent, Fresno State, despite a widening scandal and a change at starting quarterback.
Nineteen current and former UCLA players have been charged with illegally possessing handicapped parking placards while they played at UCLA. Chicago Bears quarterback Cade McNown and Washington Redskins running back Skip Hicks were among the latest players to be charged with the misdemeanor.
Eleven players suspended for the season's first two games for their involvement in the scam will return to the team for this weekend's game, bringing some much-needed help to No. 21 UCLA (1-1).
Defensive backs Ryan Roques, Marques Anderson and Eric Whitfield, linebackers Ali Abdul-Azziz, Tony White, Ryan Nece and Robert Thomas, offensive linemen Oscar Cabrera and Jim Ghezzi and running backs Durell Price and Keith Brown will return at the Rose Bowl.
Despite the sudden swelling of the Bruins' roster, the return of the 11 players isn't the only change for UCLA this week. Coach Bob Toledo has named redshirt freshman Cory Paus the starting quarterback over Drew Bennett.
Bennett, who began the season as the starter, and Paus split time in UCLA's first two games, but Toledo said he would name a permanent starter early in the season.
"We feel at this time that it's best for us to go with Cory Paus," Toledo said. "Cory will be the starting quarterback for now. He's throwing the ball the best, that's the crux of the thing."
UCLA needs a strong game this weekend to restore its confidence. The Bruins were defeated 42-20 at Ohio State last week.
"No question not having our full team had an effect," Toledo said after the loss. "Our guys got tired and worn down at the end, and the youth and inexperience showed up in a lot of situations."
UCLA built a 10-0 second-quarter lead, but the offense then began to sputter. Toledo pulled Bennett after he went 7-of-8 for 117 yards, and Paus misfired on four of his six attempts as the Bruins were forced to punt on their next two possessions.
Ohio State then scored 21 unanswered points. Bennett was reinserted and led UCLA to another touchdown, but Ohio State scored twice in a 3 1/2-minute span to pull away.
Fresno State (1-1) is probably the perfect team to help UCLA get back on track. The Bruins are 4-0 all-time against the Bulldogs, and Fresno State is coming off a 46-23 loss to Oregon State last Saturday.
The Bulldogs' defense will have to improve dramatically if they are to have any chance against UCLA. Oregon State's Ken Simonton had 31 carries for 178 yards and two touchdowns against Fresno State on Saturday, while Beavers quarterback Jonathan Smith completed 16 of 29 passes for 303 yards and two touchdowns.
Fresno State quarterback Billy Volek completed 23 of 37 passes for 196 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
The most recent meeting between UCLA and Fresno State was a 45-21 Bruins victory at the Rose Bowl in 1995.
By TOM CASTRO
AP MegaSports Writer