Friday, September 21, 2007

Is Pat Cowan the Answer?

Well, since I asked this question about Ben Olson two weeks ago, I thought it only fair to try and answer the same question about Pat Cowan. When I wrote that article about Ben, I didn't think Pat would be available to play for a while. As it turns out, he's not only going to play this Saturday but he is the starting quarterback. So, is Pat the right man for the job?

Unfortunately, I don't think we'll get the answer this weekend. Pat has just recently returned to full practices after a month of recovering from a groin injury. While the coaches have publicly expressed confidence that Cowan is ready to go, you have to believe that he'll be slowed by the injury. Since Pat's main strength is his scrambling ability, he likely won't be as effective at running as he was last season. That being said, Cowan does bring some different and potentially beneficial skills to the position for the Bruins.

The biggest change that Cowan brings is that he can move (even if he isn't 100%). He's no Vince Young, but he does force opponents to take his running threat seriously. Nobody is worried about Ben running and teams can drop lots of defenders back into coverage on obvious passing downs.

Another difference that Pat posses is that he throws well on the run. With the O-line stinking it up, a mobile QB can buy some extra time. Ben's accuracy declines dramatically on the move, or at least that's the impression I've gotten this year. If Pat gets on the move then the defense has to respect his running ability and that can allow a receiver to get open if the line backers key on Cowan.

The final thing I like about Cowan is that he has a level head. Pressure doesn't seem to effect him and he stays calm in difficult situations. That makes him a gamer in my book and the fruits of his cool demeanor was that big win over USC last season. When Olson gets rattled, he starts trying to force passes and that gets him into trouble.

Not everything is peachy keen with Pat. His accuracy when passing is worse than Ben. He doesn't have the same arm strength or touch as Olson and the chances of him turning into a big time quarterback aren't very likely. Cowan also doesn't have any better grasp on this offense then any of the other quarterbacks and that has lead to stalled drives and scoring droughts in the past.

I wouldn't expect a lot from Pat in this game. His injury probably will limit how well he can play. If he can just manage the game, limit turnovers, and keep a few drives alive then that's about the most we can expect. It will really fall on the rest of the team to make the plays that earn UCLA a victory this week.

With Ben cleared to return to practice, he will likely take back the starting position next week. Unless Pat puts together a spectacular performance (which isn't likely), I don't see Dorrell replacing the southpaw. It would be good to see Pat get healthy and back in shape in case he is needed later in the season. With the kind of protection the line has been providing this season, he might get called upon sooner rather than later.

(photo credit: Ghetty Images)

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