Louisville's Michael Bush Leads Team, Conference In Rushing - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Louisville's Michael Bush Leads Team, Conference In Rushing

(LOUISVILLE) -- Teammate Brandon Johnson calls him the Navigator. No question, Michael Bush is big -- 6-feet-3-inches, 245 pounds -- like Lincoln's sport utility vehicle.

The nickname doesn't just apply to his size, though. Bush, Louisville's junior running back who played quarterback and cornerback in high school, knows how to get around a football field too.

Consider the first series in the Cardinals' most recent game, a triple overtime, 46-44, loss at West Virginia. On third and one, at the Mountaineers' 6-yard line, Bush ran up the middle, bouncing off linebackers and defensive linemen, finally spinning off a defender for the first down. On the next play, Bush ran around the left end, stiff-arming one defender and outrunning the rest for Louisville's first score of the game.

Bush also played basketball in high school and credits that sport for his shiftiness.

"To me, I'm not a bruising back," Bush said. "I mean, I'm big, but every time I'm not going to go in there and run smash-mouth right at you. I like to keep it as a finesse athlete. If I have to play hard nose football, I will."

Bush finished the game with 159 yards on 37 carries, four rushing touchdowns and three catches for 19 yards. Rarely did a run by Bush end with him getting pushed backward.

"He ran probably as well as he has at that position," Louisville coach Bobby Petrino said. "He made some unbelievable runs and he was getting tackled by three or four different guys."

Last season, Bush shared time in the backfield with Eric Shelton and Lionel Gates, who are now on National Football League rosters, and Kolby Smith who missed the West Virginia game with a knee injury. Smith may miss Saturday's game as well.

This season, the Navigator has emerged as the Cardinals' workhorse.

"I get on (Smith) every day. 'C'mon, Kolby. You gotta come back, man,"' Bush said. "I was in a zone during the game, so I didn't know how many times I actually carried the ball until after the game."

Bush leads the Cardinals and the Big East Conference in touchdowns (16), rushing yards (686), and all-purpose yards (845).

"He can catch the ball out of the backfield," Petrino said. "He still has the foot quickness when he's in the hole. He's able to make the cuts in and out of the hole and finish the runs down on the goal line."

But as much as Bush can move the football, the Cardinals (4-2, 0-2 Big East) need Bush as a leader, too. The loss to West Virginia was the Cardinals' second in the conference, making them a longshot to win the retooled Big East. Before the season media and fans expected Louisville to win the conference, play in a Bowl Championship Series game, and maybe compete for a national championship.

"Michael, when he first got here and stepped on the field, he was already a leader," Petrino said. "Some people are like that. He's always been like that. Even when he wasn't the feature tailback he was a leader of the team."

Bush describes himself as a quiet, by-example leader.

"I leave the rah-rah, loud stuff up to (senior wide receiver Joshua) Tinch," he said. "Guys rally up behind him."

Tinch leads the conference in receptions with 35 and is third in receiving yards per game.

But, Petrino said, Bush knows how to get loud, too.

"He did a real nice job the other night on the sideline before the overtimes started, getting everyone ready to go," Petrino said.

As a quarterback, and leader by default, at Louisville Male High School, Bush led the Bulldogs to the state championship game in his senior year, 2002, where they lost to Louisville quarterback Brian Brohm's Louisville Trinity Shamrocks, 59-56.

The two combined for more than 1,000 passing yards that day. Bush was named Mr. Football that season, and Brohm the next year.

Bush was not happy about the move to running back at first, as he had hoped to eventually be Louisville's starting quarterback. He played some quarterback as a freshman but became a full-time runner last season.

"The change, it just opened up a lot of doors and opportunities now, so who's to say if I had stayed at QB the same things wouldn't be happening," Bush said.

Bush has thrown one pass for an incompletion, a trick play to Brohm, this season and says he still has his cannon of a throwing arm. Cardinal fans may get to see him throw again this season.

"No telling what coach is gonna do, so he might have something up his sleeve," Bush said.

The Cardinals will travel to play the Cincinnati Bearcats (3-3, 1-1), for the "Keg of Nails" rivalry trophy, Saturday. The game will be the Cardinals' third conference road game of the season. Cincinnati leads the series, 26-18-1, but the Cardinals have won six of the last seven, including 70-7 last season in Louisville.

(Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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