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Cowan expected to return to practice

Times Staff Writer

Patrick Cowan is expected to return to full practice next week, with the junior quarterback hoping he’ll be ready for UCLA’s Pacific 10 Conference game against second-ranked California on Oct. 20 at the Rose Bowl.

It would be only the second game for Cowan this season.

And that will happen only if he can make it through his second full week of practice.

Cowan has participated in only a week’s worth of practice since August, when he sustained a torn hamstring during training camp. After missing three games, he stepped in for injured starter Ben Olson against Washington on Sept. 22, but then was injured himself, sustaining a torn medial collateral ligament in his right knee.

Olson, who returned to start against Oregon State two weeks ago, started last week against Notre Dame, but didn’t make it out of the first quarter before sustaining a knee injury, leaving the Bruins without their top two quarterbacks.

With Olson now expected out at least three weeks, Cowan’s return appears to be UCLA’s best hope. Of course, that will become more likely when he can practice at full speed, which hasn’t happened this week.

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“He hasn’t been running around,” Coach Karl Dorrell said Thursday. “I felt it would be better for him to condition, get used to opening up the range of motion in the knee and all that stuff. We’ll get him practicing next week.”

Cowan said getting up to speed with the offense shouldn’t be a problem. “Physically, I haven’t practiced too much, but I’ve studied it and I have been in this offense going on four years,” he said.

The other options are far less experienced, and even though the Bruins have not had Olson and Cowan healthy for the same game this season, Dorrell seemed unprepared for both being hurt at the same time.

When Olson had to come out against Notre Dame on Saturday, McLeod Bethel-Thompson, a non-scholarship player, was the best option.

This week, freshman Chris Forcier was moved off the scout team, where he had spent the entire season, and Osaar Rasshan was moved back from wide receiver to quarterback, the position he played the last two years at UCLA.

So although the Bruins still have unknown quality at the position, they will at least have quantity behind him if Cowan can’t play or is injured during the game.

Asked Thursday what he has learned about his quarterback situation, Dorrell said, “That we need to keep working.”

“It’s not bad,” he added. “I like the progression Chris Forcier is making. Mac is getting better because he is getting more reps than his normal backup [quarterback] reps. Those guys are progressing pretty well. Osaar is getting reps too.

“We’re trying to get a grade evaluation of those three guys. That might be all we have for this game, [so we have to] try to get together a great package to be successful, if it comes down to that.”

However, Cowan is clearly the preferred choice.

“We’re going to see how he does during the week,” Dorrell said. “How he looks and stuff like that. We didn’t want him to try and do anything this week. The more time he gets a chance to rehab and heal, the better chances we get.”

Reserve tight end Tyler Holland suffered a shoulder injury in practice Thursday, which Dorrell said was probably a dislocation.

chris.foster@latimes.com


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