Brahmas go against-type with strong run game led by John Lovett

WASHINGTON, DC – MAY 05: John Lovett #7 of the San Antonio Brahmas runs the ball against Ferrod Gardner #6 of the DC Defenders during the third quarter at Audi Field on May 05, 2024 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Greg Fiume/UFL/Getty Images)

If you had a San Antonio Brahmas player with the highest single-game rushing performance of the season through week six, raise your hand.

All those with your hands up: Stop lying.

Indeed, it was San Antonio RB John Lovett who established the new record last weekend by rushing for 153 yards on 23 carries in an 18-12 loss to the D.C. Defenders. As a team, the Brahmas rushed for 200 yards in that game, a week after they ran for 178 yards against the Arlington Renegades. Through six weeks, the Brahmas rank third in the UFL in rushing yardage and second in yards per carry. Brahmas head coach Wade Phillips had high praise for Lovett in his media availability on Wednesday. “He’s an outstanding player and we want to get him the ball as much as we can.”

This offense, under run-and-shoot disciple A.J. Smith, is supposed to be pass-first. The reputation of that offense is that running the ball is anathema to their philosophy. Yet, the ground game has been the most consistent part of the offense of late. QB Quinten Dormady threw for less than 100 yards against D.C., coming on the heels of a three-interception performance against Arlington.

The surge of the running game comes against the backdrop of the team missing its starting RB, Anthony McFarland, due to injury. He hasn’t played since week three against St. Louis. McFarland’s return may be imminent. “He practiced today, so that’s a big step forward,” Phillips said. “We’re still determining where he is…there’s a chance he could play in this (upcoming) ball game.”

McFarland, a former fourth round draft pick in the NFL of the Pittsburgh Steelers, brings 4.4 speed to the backfield, a different skill set offered than the current 1-2 punch at the position in Lovett and former Seattle Sea Dragon Morgan Ellison. When I asked Phillips about Lovett and McFarland splitting the game reps upon McFarland’s return, he was quick to point out Ellison, too. “We’ve got two big backs that are powerful backs,” Phillips said of the 6’0″, 215 pound Lovett and the 6’1″, 238 pound Ellison.

McFarland, at 5’8″ and 193 pounds, began the season as the starter for San Antonio. He also returned kicks. “He’s a dynamic player and we’ve missed him,” said Phillips of McFarland. But the value of Lovett may limit McFarland’s touches, at least initially, upon his return.

Last year in Vegas, Lovett operated as the second back behind starter Rod Smith, though at times he outperformed Smith. Once again, he has come into a situation where he’s playing behind a starter and in this instance due to injury, is outperforming expectations once again. When McFarland gets healthy, San Antonio could be even more dangerous in the run game. Prepare the fainting couch for those run-and-shoot enthusiasts.

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