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Markey Makes Up for UCLA Blunders

The junior running back proves reliable from the start as the rest of the offense sputters.

October 01, 2006|Diane Pucin | Times Staff Writer

First play of the game and Chris Markey gained seven yards.

Those weren't flashy yards. Markey didn't fake any Stanford players out of their shoes.

Second play of the game and Markey caught a five-yard pass from quarterback Ben Olson. Not a dazzling play, but Markey's hands were strong and sure. Next play, a five-yard rush by Markey. And the next play? Eight more yards from Markey. Four UCLA plays and he accounted for 25 yards.

But then Olson threw to Brandon Breazell and it was incomplete. So was the next pass and the next. Neither of them went to Markey, and the ball didn't touch Markey's hands.

It was about as productive as looking for a parking spot on Sunset Boulevard on Saturday night, looking for the bright spots of the UCLA offense. The 31-0 final score was deceptive. It wasn't until there were 2 minutes 45 seconds left in the third quarter that the Bruins scored an offensive touchdown against Stanford, the worst team in the Pacific 10 Conference.

But a Bruins optimist could smile at Markey from the very start.

Markey, a 5-foot-11, 208-pound junior, gained 88 yards on 18 carries, and 77 of those came in the first half, when someone needed to make up for Olson's two interceptions (both in Stanford territory), for Terrence Austin's fumbled punt, for Danny Nelson's personal foul.

"We as an offense can't keep starting out slow like this," Markey said. "That won't work against good teams."

While many of his teammates were loudly celebrating around him, Markey was almost subdued even though his running helped the UCLA offense from completely shutting down early.

Markey was more disappointed in his final run of the first half, a two-yard loss on fourth and goal from the one.

"Man, they read that play perfectly," Markey said. "I never had a chance. We've got to do better than that."

That's how the night went for UCLA's offense, a few brilliant plays and few enough Olson mistakes to let the defense sparkle.

"We're just not clicking yet," Olson said of the offense. "We're not where we should be yet." Olson, who was 20 for 37 for 219 yards, said he threw the ball too high on his first interception and, "I held on to the ball too long on the second."

If Markey didn't match the career-high 208 rushing yards he had against Rice, if he didn't reach his season average of 121.3 yards a game, his performance against Stanford showed something more important. Markey was reliable even when the rest of UCLA's offense wasn't.

After the offense was booed after failing to score from the one near the end of the first half, and even with UCLA leading, 14-0, in the fourth quarter, Rose Bowl fans weren't happy when Olson threw back-to-back incompletions toward the end zone from the 30-yard line. Both passes were too long and too hard, and on third and 10, the Bruins missed again. They settled for a field goal, and much like the rest of the offensive performance the three points didn't seem good enough.

"I'm a little exasperated," Markey said. "I want to do better. The defense is amazing, the way they're playing. The offense needs to match that. It was good we went for it on fourth and goal. But we've got to be making it."

diane.pucin@latimes.com

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