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HOBERT SCORES POINTS IN QUARTERBACK BATTLE

For those keeping score at home, here's the rundown after Round One of the Buffalo Bills' quarterback battle:

Billy Joe Hobert is ahead on points. He was over center in the two drives that produced all of the Bills' scoring in Saturday night's 31-10 preseason-opening loss to the Denver Broncos in Mile High Stadium.

Todd Collins is ahead in style. He had by far the smoothest outing of Buffalo's four quarterbacks Saturday night.

Alex Van Pelt is knocked out, thanks to a separated right (throwing) shoulder he suffered on his second play, when 6-foot-6, 280-pound defensive end Harald Hasselbach fell on him after an incomplete pass. He is expected to be sidelined for six to eight weeks.

Jim Ballard played solidly enough in garbage time to make at least the beginnings of a case to replace Van Pelt for the No. 3 job.

"I thought all the quarterbacks played pretty well," offensive coordinator Dan Henning said. "I saw some good things. We knew we would have some glitches because of playing every single player in uniform on offense. But I'm not discouraged."

Hobert probably gained the most ground, if only because of his struggles through most of the first two weeks of training-camp practices. His numbers weren't impressive -- three completions in 10 attempts for 62 yards. But he did guide the Bills to a touchdown after replacing Collins in the second quarter, and to a field goal after unexpectedly returning to the game because of Van Pelt's injury.

"We didn't plan on going back to Billy in the second half," Henning said. "But when Alex got hurt, Jim was getting ready to play in the fourth quarter and Billy hadn't had quite as much (playing time) as we would have liked him to get, so we gave him a few extra plays."

Hobert had some ugly throws that were nearly intercepted. But he also had a nice 30-yard hookup with Chris Brantley, whom he also found for a three-yard TD that was nullified by an illegal-formation penalty.

"What I feel good about is the way the team played when I was in there," said Hobert, who is expected to start Saturday night's preseason game against Chicago in Rich Stadium. "I felt like it was my show and I was very comfortable as far as getting the line up there; they responded to me very well. When I'm on the field, it's my team and it's my game. That's the way I look at it, and if anybody takes offense to it, I can't do anything about that. That's just me.

"I made some mental errors, but I'm aware of the mental errors that I made so at least I know I have a chance to correct them."

Collins was the most mechanically sound of the Bills' QBs in finishing 5 of 9 for 63 yards. He seemed well on his way to leading the Bills to a score when coach Marv Levy, deciding Collins' allotted playing time was up, abruptly replaced him with Hobert in mid-drive.

"I was pleased," said Collins, who completed a 19-yard pass to Andre Reed and a 17-yarder to Quinn Early. "I thought I was pretty accurate on most of the throws I made. We didn't hook up on the deep balls, but we hit those in practice, so we know we're going to get them."

Ballard quarterbacked most of the second half after replacing Hobert in the third quarter. He completed 10 of 20 passes for 143 yards. He looked to have a sure touchdown pass on a short throw to Rene Ingoglia, but the ball bounced off the running back's shoulder and was intercepted by cornerback Vance Joseph, who ran 99 yards for a touchdown.

"I thought all three quarterbacks who got playing time did a good job," Levy said.

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