LAS VEGAS UCLA's quarterback carousel is spinning again, but BYU coach Bronco Mendenhall said that doesn't affect defensive preparations for Saturday's Las Vegas Bowl.
Bruin quarterback Ben Olson, who aggravated a left knee injury in practice over the weekend, is listed as doubtful to play against his old team.
If Olson is unable to play, sophomore Osaar Rasshan would start in his place.
Mendenhall said the Cougars have been preparing all week to face a few different quarterbacks. Four different QBs have taken snaps for UCLA this season.
"It doesn't change anything for us. We've been anticipating multiple quarterbacks playing, whichever ones are possible or healthy. We've got defensive plan variations no matter whom we see, and we'll adjust based on who we see on Saturday," Mendenhall said.
Should Rasshan start Saturday, it would mark his third career start. In those outings he completed 17 of 44 passes for 259 yards. In his last appearance, he went 0-for-7 in the first half before being replaced by Olson in the Bruins' eventual victory over Oregon. Rasshan did not play in UCLA's 27-17 win over BYU in September.
Patrick Cowan, who started five games this season when Olson went down with a knee injury in early October, will not play in the bowl game due to a knee injury, said UCLA interim coach DeWayne Walker.
The Bruins are a talented, athletic team regardless of which quarterback starts, Mendenhall said. "Based on which quarterback is playing, certainly the chemistry has been altered yet they are capable at receiver and running back and they have enough skill to present us problems in terms of matchups. We're preparing for the very best team they can put together."
When asked to compare Rasshan and Olson, Mendenhall said Rasshan "is more mobile, maybe more of a pure, true athlete and a scramble threat. But he's still a capable passer. Mobility is what you're looking at that is really the distinction."
'UPGRADE' IN VEGAS: The last two years, BYU has stayed at the Golden Nugget hotel. This year, the Cougars have checked into Planet Hollywood and the players seem to like the change.
"They upgraded us," said linebacker Bryan Kehl. "I'll take it. It's sweet. They should have done it two years ago. But better late than never. I've enjoyed my stay so far."
As is customary with bowl games, the players received an assortment of trinkets from bowl officials.
"They've taken good care of us. They gave us a gift card to Best Buy," Kehl said. "Rather than give us all the same thing, we can get what we want. Some guys got cameras, video cameras, Wiis, clothes and headphones."
SERVICE PROJECTS: Mendenhall believes BYU's football program should be heavily involved in community service, so, once again, his team will find opportunities to serve this week.
"I think it's the right fit for our program," Mendenhall said. "Even though the Las Vegas Bowl does a good job with activities, there is still free time. To leave the community without working to make a difference wouldn't be right. We're going to occupy all the time we can."
Kehl said Mendenhall has not said much to the team about what those service projects are going to be. "It's secretive. I think (Thursday) night we're going caroling because (coach Mendenhall) had me print off a bunch of Christmas carol sheets for everybody."A FEW TICKETS STILL AVAILABLE: Las Vegas Bowl executive director Tina Kunzer-Murphy announced Wednesday that 200 tickets have been available for sale to Saturday's game. The $30 tickets were released by the ESPN broadcast production team, and the seats are located in the end zone. To purchase tickets, go to the Thomas & Mack Center Box Office or go online to www.unlvtickets.com.
E-mail: [email protected]