Once tabbed as UCLA's starting QB, junior comes through as backup against Arizona

By Craig Degel

Arizona Daily Wildcat

PASADENA, Calif. With 8:32 left on the clock in the third quarter, UCLA freshman quarterback Cade McNown had completed just three passes. Realizing a change was needed, Bruin head coach Terry Donahue inserted junior quarterback Ryan Fien.

Fien, who described his career at UCLA as "a rollercoaster," ignited the Bruin offense for 10 fourth-quarter points to give the Bruins their first conference victory of the season.

Fien was tabbed as the starter before the season, but tough outings early led to McNown earning the starting job.

"My career wasn't over by any means," Fien said. "My parents have always told me to take everything with a grain of salt."

Keeping that in mind, you would think his middle name was Morton. Fien played at UCLA as a true freshman during the 1992 season. A nagging foot injury caused him to take a medical redshirt during his sophomore year. Then he spent last year behind Wayne Cook.

"That was tough, just sitting there as a backup and wondering when you're going to go in," Fien said.

He seized the opportunity Saturday night, completing 6-of-10 passes for 104 yards. He also passed for his first career touchdown, on a play that probably made evening news highlight reels from here to Bangor, Maine.

Fien dumped the ball off to running back Karim Abdul-Jabbar at the UA 14-yard line. Abdul-Jabbar then changed direction two times and found himself as deep as the UA 35-yard line. He changed directions again, broke three tackles and found the endzone.

Oxygen, anyone?

"Oh yeah, he definitely needed it," Bruin linebacker Tommy Bennett said. It was Bennett's 29-yard fumble return that was the difference in the game.

Fien said the play resembled "the way my career has gone like a rollercoaster."

He connected with flanker Kevin Jordan on three of his first five passes on a drive that looked to be on the way to a score, but Fien's first meeting with Tedy Bruschi a sack for a seven-yard

loss stalled the drive and the Bruins were forced to punt.

Despite Fien's good showing, Donahue refused to speculate on who would be his starter when the Bruins meet Stanford Saturday.

"I'm not worried about that," Donahue said. "I want to savor the victory."

Fien shared the same outlook.

"I'm not even going to think about it," he said.

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