While Pat Cowan is getting ready for the biggest road game (to date) of the season, Ben Olson is working hard on rehab and fighting to come back sooner than anyone expects. According to Ben, he may be back by the Washington State game (emphasis mine):
"I will be back for Washington State," Olson said, pausing for emphasis between each word.
Olson was injured in the first quarter of the Bruins' 27-7 victory over Arizona on Saturday at the Rose Bowl, and the initial prognosis was that while surgery was not required he would be out 4-6 weeks.
UCLA plays Washington State on Oct. 28, which would put him back in game preparation just two weeks after the injury.
Speaking of confidence in Pat, Dohn has a nice profile of Cowan, which notes an important distinction between the scenario Cowan found himself against Arizona vs. the one he may experience this Saturday:
Cowan is spending this week as UCLA's most important player, and with Oregon's defensive coaches game-planning to stop him.
Whereas Arizona appeared clueless in how to defend Cowan rolling out and finding oodles of open receivers, the Ducks should be prepared for it.
"(Cowan) ran the ball well, moved the offense well and threw some passes under duress for touchdowns to win the game," Ducks coach Mike Bellotti said. "I think he's done a great job so far, and we don't have a lot of (tape) to go by."
There are off-the-field issues associated with being UCLA's starting quarterback, and Cowan is experiencing them for the first time, although the program is isolating him from some perceived distractions.
He was not made available to the media Monday, meaning after Tuesday's practice was the only time he was available. During most weeks, UCLA quarterbacks are available Monday and Tuesday.
But if UCLA wants to keep him away from the media pressure, how will he react to 58,000 Oregon green and gold-clad fans Saturday at Autzen Stadium, one of the noisiest venues in the West?
"We are not changing a thing. We will continue to progress in the direction that we want to go. I guess the biggest change is that we have all right-handers now."
This is certainly not one of those "program-maker" games but it is an important one. A win over Oregon (which is hurting on defense) could become a huge momentum boost for Dorrell's program going into South Bend. As our poll indicates on the right at this point of the season, Oregon probably provides Dorrell the best chance to pick up his first win against a team with a winning record on the road. If he gets it done on Saturday, it will take huge pressure of him and rest of the program psychologically heading into South Bend. They will head into the ND game with all the momentum, and no real pressure to win that game. They would be able to play with nothing to lose and unleash the new Bruin defense on Brady Quinn. If they lose though then all the self-doubts will creep in because it will become obvious (at least record wise losing all games this season to opponents who are in top-30) that they are probably not that good, despite their head coach mouthing off before the season started that this is probably the best team he has had in Westwood. Of course if the Bruins had beaten Washington, they wouldn't have been in this predicament (but we will not bring it up anymore).
So that's what's at stake this weekend's game, which is a flash point for rest of the season. It will be interesting to see how Dorrell responds to the pressure against playing a good team on the road. So far he hasn't delivered. Let's hope he can reverse the trend this weekend.