Brown rejuvenates Louisville running game

Seeking a solution to Louisville's sluggish rushing attack, Charlie Strong moved sophomore Dominique Brown from quarterback to running back before the Cardinals win over Kentucky - a move that has jump started UofL's running game.

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Louisville's running game struggled early this season, particularly in a home loss to Florida International three weeks ago.

The Cardinals couldn't generate anything positive on the ground against the Panthers, rushing for just 83 yards on 41 carries, a paltry 2.2 yards per carry.

Before heading to play Kentucky two weeks ago, Charlie Strong made a critical decision to move sophomore Dominique Brown from quarterback to running back. The result? Louisville's best rushing effort of the season (181 yards) that fueled a 24-17 win over the Wildcats, snapping a four-game losing streak against their rivals.

"Any time you make a move with someone and good things happen for them they feel like, "Oh, I should have been there the whole time," Strong said. "We hoped that would happen and it did.

"When we moved him, I said, "Hey, Dominique, rather than seeing you stand on the sideline there's a position I would rather see you play."

"And he said, "Coach, anything for the team." For him to have success made it much better for him and now he's comfortable."

Brown, who failed to make a major impact in his role as Louisville's third-string quarterback and ‘Wildcard' back, made his presence felt against UK in his first game at running back. The 6'2, 210-pound Brown, an option quarterback in high school, rushed 14 times for 91 in his debut at his new position.

"What happened in the Kentucky game is they didn't know if he was coming in as a Wildcard quarterback or tailback," Strong said. "If you watch, one time Teddy was under center and (Dominique) was back there dotting the I and we handed him the ball and he was running downhill. When you go into the Wildcard people can load the box. Now when he runs into the game he can line up at tailback. If he's at tailback we can either run or throw."

Brown gives the Cardinals a physical presence in the backfield who can pound defenses with his size and power.

"I think all Dominique knows is go, period," said defensive end Greg Scruggs. "There is no cutting about it. He is a gifted and talented athlete but he's a downhill runner. When you have somebody like that in the backfield he's hard to stop."

As a senior in high school, Brown rushed for more than 2,000 yards while leading his team to the Ohio Class-A state championship.

"I played against him in high school and he broke some of my tackles when he was a freshman and I was a senior," Scruggs said. "He's just showing everybody now what I've known for a while. He's a great runner who can make things happen. I can see why they (moved) him. It seems like the coaches found a niche for him. He's a very tough guy to bring down."

With Brown in the backfield on a full-time basis, UofL's running game could get another boost this Saturday. Junior center Mario Benavides, who missed the first three games with injury, is expected to return to the lineup. The Cardinals best offensive lineman, Benavides will provide experienced guidance for Strong's young offensive linemen.

"You'd like to improve each game in your production," Strong said. "When you look at the three backs that we have in Vic (Anderson), Jeremy (Wright) and Dominique, I would like to see us get a 100-yard rusher and then continue to improve each week running the football.

"To do that, we have to be able to block people and our backs have to do the job. You're not always going to block everyone, so our backs have to be able to run behind their pads and run through tacklers sometimes. They haven't been able to break a long run either. Vic has enough speed to break a long one and Jeremy has enough speed to break a long one. Dominique is a different type of back because he's more of a bruiser who can run through people."

Neither Anderson nor Wright have rushed for more than 61 yards in a game this season. Strong expects the emergence of Brown to intensify the competition in Louisville's backfield.

"You'd like to see one of those guys emerge as the (No. 1) back," Strong said. "Last season, we had that guy in Bilal Powell. We'd like to see…one of these guys becomes the back. All of the guys are going to play, but we would like to say `hey, this is the main back and this is the guy you have to stop."

If his performance against Kentucky was an indication, Dominique Brown could emerge as UofL's go-to running back this season.

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