Sports

Is It Proper To Bench Mcnown? Ucla’s Toledo Prepared To Give Backup Qb A Shot At Running Offense

Will the UCLA offense require a change of Cadence?

It’s a fair question, football coach Bob Toledo allows, although sophomore Cade McNown remains penciled in as the starter for Saturday’s game against Washington State.

Toledo’s eraser is nearby, however, and sophomore Steve Buck could see his first collegiate playing time against the Cougars.

“I’ve talked to Cade (in the past about being benched),” Toledo said this week. “I’ve told him, ‘There will be a time when you’re not playing well, and I’ll have to take you out.

“When that time comes, I want you to handle it well and remember you might be going back in. , “That’s how we’re approaching it at this point.”

McNown is completing just 52 percent of his passes - worst in the Pacific-10 Conference - and has thrown five more interceptions than touchdowns (12-7).

As the lowest-rated quarterback in the Pac-10, he hasn’t earned much respect. Opponents often stack eight players near the line of scrimmage, daring McNown to beat them.

So far, he hasn’t been able.

The Bruins, in turn, are just 3-5 overall and 2-3 in the Pac-10. Tailback Skip Hicks has carried the offense, scoring 13 of UCLA’s 26 touchdowns.

McNown’s inexperience was especially costly during the final minute of Saturday’s 21-20 home loss to Stanford.

UCLA had possession with 51 seconds left, but netted only 2 yards on a disastrous final drive that Toledo acknowledged as “embarrassing.”

The drive included two short runs by McNown, who instead should have thrown incomplete to stop the clock, in addition to two penalties, one dropped pass and a breakdown in communication that cost the Bruins 13 seconds.

“He doesn’t throw it away very often - he’s got so much confidence in his ability to complete a pass,” Toledo said. “Sometimes

that’s good, because sometimes you’ll complete some balls you shouldn’t complete.

“But again, it’s the inexperienced part, not saying, ‘Hey look, it’s not there, whistle it over his head and let’s pick up our weapons and move on.’ “

Toledo is hopeful McNown will develop into a capable quarterback, and generously compares McNown to a young Jake Plummer.

“Plummer made those same kind of mistakes a couple years ago, when Arizona State was getting hammered,” Toledo said. “You learn from those mistakes.”

Or, you get benched.

With the Bruins essentially out of bowl contention, though, Toledo has little incentive to turn the offense over to Buck - even if McNown is completing just 52 percent of his passes, with five more interceptions than touchdowns (12-7).

“It’s a trial-and-error basis for him,” Toledo said

Notes

Quarterback Akili Smith, who committed to WSU out of high school but did not qualify academically, has committed to California, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Smith has spent the last two seasons at Grossmont Junior College, near San Diego, and has passed for 1,888 yards and 21 touchdowns this season.

UCLA’s secondary, which figures to be tested by WSU’s fivereceiver formations, has several players banged up.

Safeties Shaun Williams (knee), Glenn Thompkins (thumb) and Eric Whitfield (ankle) are expected to be limited by injury, as is cornerback Paul Guidry (thigh).

Quotable

“The same people who thought he invented the forward pass are now wondering aloud why he doesn’t use it more often.”

- C.W. Nevius, San Francisco Chronicle columnist, on Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color photo



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