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A QB WITH MCNOWNLIKE RENOWN.

Byline: Jon Wilner Staff Writer

What concerns UCLA most about Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo is not his cannon arm or blazing speed or vast experience or stellar pedigree. He has none of those attributes, save the pedigree. (His father, Manu, played defensive line for the Bruins in the 1970s.)

Instead, what worries the Bruins most about Tuiasosopo is his resemblance to an old friend. In instinct and toughness, in leadership and savvy, he's the closest thing the Pac-10 has to Cade McNown. And the last person UCLA's battered defense wants to face is a McNown-alike.

``The big thing is (Tuiasosopo's) ability to make plays,'' Bruins coach Bob Toledo said, echoing McNown's greatest asset. ``He gets away from the rush. He finds open guys. He plays hurt.

``He's the best player in the conference.''

Tuiasosopo's courageous performance two weeks ago against Stanford (509 total yards despite a severely bruised behind) was reminiscent of McNown against Oregon, when he vomited at midfield, then led the Bruins to an overtime victory.

Their similarities in style and productivity explain why Tuiasosopo is heavily favored win Pac-10 Player of the Year honors and why Washington is tantalizingly close to its first Rose Bowl since 1993.

The Huskies' senior class is as small as UCLA's (12 members). Their running backs and receivers are no better than seventh in the league. Their defense is eighth in the conference. They have the Pac-10's worst pass rush and they outscore opponents by three points a game.

In short, there's no tangible explanation for their success - except they have the best player at the most important position. Tuiasosopo is a running, passing get-out-of-jams-free card.

``He gets us off the hook and all coaches will tell you that if you've got somebody to do that, you're way ahead of the game,'' Huskies coach Rick Neuheisel said. ``Cade McNown did that for several years at UCLA. Marques is doing that now for the Huskies.''

The Bruins hoped he would do it for them, given the family bloodlines. Naturally, Tuiasosopo was a huge UCLA fan growing up the early '90s in Woodinville, Wash., which lies 30 minutes east of Husky Stadium.

``In junior high, I'd get in fights with friends over the UW-UCLA game, which was pretty crazy since that was when the Huskies were so dominant,'' Tuiasosopo told the Tacoma News Tribune.

But proximity to home lured Tuiasosopo to Washington. (His sister, Leslie, played volleyball for the Huskies.) He sat behind Brock Huard for two years, then took command this season - of the team and the conference.

To get win No. 4, the Bruins must stop Washington's No. 11.

CAPTION(S):

photo

PHOTO MARQUES TUIASOSOPO

The son of a former UCLA star, he is widely considered to be the conference's best player.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Nov 13, 1999
Words:460
Previous Article:SC NOTEBOOK: CLARIDGE ABSOLVES COACHES.
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