SENSITIVE ISSUES UCLA'S PAUS KNOWS QBS NEED THICK SKIN.
LOS ANGELES - For all those hungry for a daily dose of advice, here's an absolutely free offering:
If you need lots of hugs, can't handle being critiqued and are secretly concealing the self-assurance of a teen-ager on a first date - do not play quarterback at UCLA.
This is not the place for the weak arm or weak self-confidence. Play quarterback here, and you'd better have skin like a rhino. You'd better understand that hypercriticism is all meant to mold you into the ideal Bruins quarterback.
You'd better be a lot like Cory Paus.
Paus is proving to be remarkable as the unbeaten Bruins prepare for their seemingly weekly big game, this time at No. 20 Stanford. The redshirt junior is one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the country. He hasn't thrown an interception all year, and dating back to last season, has thrown 189 consecutive passes without being picked off.
So maybe you think his coach, Bob Toledo, is getting all worked up over this, gushing at every opportunity, pushing him for postseason honors. And pigs can fly.
Toledo likes to talk about how well Paus has been executing the game plan. Likes to mention how nicely he operated the offense. How he didn't make any mistakes.
``I am tough,'' Toledo said. ``I'm an old quarterback. I'm tough on all of them.''
Particularly those lining up behind center. Toledo was a quarterback at San Francisco State and obviously feels he knows the position. And since he's recognized as an offensive mastermind, and since quarterback is the most important position, you can understand his particular attention.
Ask Paus to share the best compliment Toledo ever gave him and you'll see him hesitate as he never does when there's nine guys across from him on the defensive line.
``I don't know,'' he said. ``Good throw. That's about it.''
Last week in UCLA's 56-17 victory over Cal, Paus completed 13 of 16 passes for 273 yards and three touchdowns. And Toledo got all carried away afterward and told Paus ...
``Not much - good job,'' Paus said. ``And that's good enough.
``I don't need any more. I'm cool with 'good job.' That's better than 'bad job.' That's fine with me.''
That's the thing about Paus. He has a unique sense of where he fits into all this. He comes off as grounded, as wise beyond his years.
He doesn't seem bothered in the least that teammate DeShaun Foster is the one getting all the attention, being pushed for the Heisman, on the cover of the team media guide. Not the least upset his coach won't give him any warm fuzzies. Paus knows Toledo is hard on his quarterbacks.
``It's just understood,'' Paus said. ``We talk about it now and then. It's a little bit of a gag at times, when things are going well. It's a good relationship.
``I don't take things too personally and he doesn't try to be too personal. It's good. I understand where he's coming from all the time and respect everything he has to say, because I know he just wants me to play the best I can.''
Actually, Toledo told the press Paus had his best game against Cal, which sacked him four times in the first half, and afterward was more effusive in his praise than his quarterback recalls.
``I told him he had a great game Saturday, was really proud of the way he hung in there, and he ended up doing a great job,'' Toledo said.
And then almost like he just couldn't help himself, added: ``He operated our offense flawlessly.''
Alert the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award committee! Some of Toledo's careful praise could have something to do with his last quarterback. Cade McNown erased all the UCLA passing records, but when promoted for the Heisman, there are those who would tell you he got more than a little full of himself.
Paus seems light years away from self-endangerment, despite running the same offense and being a similar quarterback to McNown.
``On the football field, definitely,'' Paus said. ``We're totally not the same off the field.''
How they're different, Paus won't say, which keeps him consistently ahead of the curve. Paus also has changed while at UCLA, becoming more outgoing around the media, but attitude doesn't appear a problem.
``I'm growing up,'' he said. ``I always maintain a humble attitude and try to stay focused. I'm not saying anybody else never did, I'm just trying to follow my own formula for success that I learned from other people.''
Even those fine-combing the fourth-ranked Bruins for flaws who have questioned his play don't rile him.
``That's probably what I would do, too,'' he said.
Skin like a rhino. For Paus, it's all part of the process. For UCLA, it's a key to a 6-0 start.
UCLA at Stanford
Sat.,12:30 p.m., TV: Ch. 7
(color) Though successful, UCLA's Cory Paus has yet to hear gushing praise from coach Bob Toledo - but that's OK with him.
Gus Ruelas/Staff Photographer