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This time, Markey really thinks he’s ready

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Times Staff Writer

Once again, a lot is expected from UCLA tailback Chris Markey when the Bruins face Oregon on Saturday. Once again, he says he is ready to provide what is needed.

This has been the dance the last two-plus weeks, since leading rusher Kahlil Bell went down because of a season-ending knee injury. Markey, who gained 1,107 yards last season, has been slowed by foot and ankle injuries and has not been able to fill that void.

Markey, a senior, has carried the ball only six times since Bell was injured and has only 23 carries since suffering a turf toe injury against Oregon State on Sept. 29.

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This week, though, he says is different.

“I’m healthy, I feel it in practice,” Markey said. “I have been running like the old Chris. The ankle and foot are not really bothering me. I feel quick on my feet. I’m reading the holes well. I guess that’s the old Chris.”

Markey says he will have extra incentive, as this will be his last regular-season game at the Rose Bowl. He was the Bruins’ leading rusher last season, and has 458 yards rushing this season.

He suffered a turf toe injury in the first half against Oregon State and received an injection that allowed him to play in the second half. He was on the field and carrying the ball with the Bruins leading by 19 points in the fourth quarter. Markey scored the last touchdown in a 40-14 victory with two minutes left.

Markey missed only one game, but he has been limited to 54 yards rushing in the last four games. He suffered a sprained ankle against Arizona on Nov. 3 and was used primarily for pass protection against Arizona State the following week.

Coach Karl Dorrell said Craig Sheppard, a walk-on, will be the starter at tailback, but also said that Markey “is healthiest he has been in a while.”

Still, it remains to be seen whether this game is any different than the last two.

“The difference is because I have been fighting to get back the last few games,” Markey said. “It’s my senior year. You never want to go out on that note, where you have to miss games. I have two games left and it’s two of the biggest ones of the year.”

Quarterback Ben Olson, who is coming back from a knee injury, took most of the reps with the second-team offense Wednesday.

“Ben looked good today,” Dorrell said. “It looked like he didn’t have any setbacks from Tuesday.”

Whether Olson, the Bruins’ No. 1 quarterback when the season began, will be the backup Saturday was something Dorrell wasn’t ready to say.

“Ask me tomorrow,” Dorrell said.

Osaar Rasshan will start at quarterback, but Olson’s availability could give the Bruins an option. UCLA needs one more victory to be bowl eligible.

“We’re trying see what he can do and will continue to see where he’s at,” Dorrell said. “He has had two really good practices. We need him at this time to be ready and be real productive for us Saturday.”

Kick returner Matthew Slater, the Bruins’ most productive offensive player recently, missed the first half of practice while having his eyes checked.

Slater has a kickoff for a touchdown in each of the last two games. No other Bruin has scored more than one touchdown in the last five games. Slater has returned three kicks for touchdowns this season.

Tailback Christian Ramirez, who was taken to the hospital for tests after suffering repeated nosebleeds, returned to practice Wednesday.

“He saw the doctor this morning and all the tests came back normal,” Dorrell said.

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chris.foster@latimes.com

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UP NEXT

vs. Oregon (8-2, 5-2)

Saturday, Rose Bowl, 12:30 p.m., Ch. 7


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