Sept. 13, 1999
LOS ANGELES - Cory Paus, who split playing time with Drew Bennett in UCLA's first two games this season, will be the Bruins' starting quarterback.
UCLA coach Bob Toledo said last month he would alternate the two for at least two games before naming a permanent starter.
He was true to his word.
"We feel at this time that it's best for us to go with Cory Paus," Toledo said Monday. "Cory will be the starting quarterback for now. He's throwing the ball the best, that's the crux of the thing.
"I'm hoping it's a decision for a long time, but you never really know that. He'll be given a great chance to succeed. We'll see what kind of decision I made."
Paus, a redshirt freshman who has completed 20 of 38 passes for 225 yards and one touchdown with three interceptions, will make his first start Saturday night against Fresno State at the Rose Bowl in the 21st-ranked Bruins' final non-conference game.
UCLA opens Pacific-10 Conference play Sept. 25 at Stanford.
Bennett, a junior who backed up Cade McNown the last two years, started UCLA's 38-7 victory over Boise State and 42-20 loss to No. 13 Ohio State, and completed 17 of 31 passes for 258 yards and two touchdowns with two interceptions.
"Now that I've made the decision, I feel very good about it," Toledo said. "I believe Cory Paus will do very well. If you were just going by stats, you would have picked Bennett. We don't just go by stats.
"I want to go with one quarterback. I'm not going to have a quick trigger, so to speak."
Toledo said Paus was a unanimous choice of the offensive coaches, and that Bennett took the news "very hard."
"But he understands, he's a team guy," Toledo said. "When you tell a guy he's not going to be a starter anymore, it's no fun for the player or the coach."
Paus won't be the only new starter against Fresno State - the Bruins will welcome back 10 players suspended for the first two games for illegally obtaining handicapped parking permits, and six are listed as first-stringers on the latest depth chart.
"That's a big chunk out of your team," Toledo said. "We should be better. There's a reason why they were starters before and the other guys were backups.
"Leadership, that's the biggest thing. The other night (at Ohio State), we had nine freshmen on defense on the field at one time. You don't think I was a little nervous? The same thing offensively. It's unbelievable how young we were. But it will pay dividends."
The four returnees who will start on defense are linebackers Tony White, Robert Thomas and Ryan Nece, and strong safety Ryan Roques. Returning as first-stringers on offense are fullback Durell Price and guard Oscar Cabrera.
Also returning are linebacker Ali Abdul Azziz, safety Eric Whitfield, offensive guard James Ghezzi and tailback Keith Brown.
Cornerback Marques Anderson, also suspended for the first two games, was suspended from school for the fall quarter as well for other university-related incidents.
"There's a big sense of relief," Roques said concerning his return. "I think there will be a bigger sense of relief when we actually play in a game."
The senior said he believes he's learned his lesson.
"Of course, I feel some regret for ever doing it, for ever using the placards," he said. "I don't think I'll ever try to take a short cut in anything again.
"There's always a blessing in the storm. Maybe later in my life, I would have tried to take a shortcut through something, and gotten something worse than a two-game suspension."
Nece, a sophomore, admitted the last couple of months have been difficult for him.
"But it's been a good learning experience," he said. "It's made me stronger as a person. We made a mistake, we got punished for it. We deserved it, without a doubt. I'm looking forward to my community service."
Nece was one of nine defendants who pleaded no contest to the misdemeanor charge of illegally possessing a handicap placard on July 28 and was ordered each to pay $1,485 in fines and perform 200 hours of community service.
Ten more are scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday, including McNown, now with the Chicago Bears, and Washington Redskins running back Skip Hicks, who were among five additional current or former UCLA football players charged Monday with illegally possessing handicapped parking placards.
By JOHN NADEL
AP Sports Writer