Holcomb shines when called on to carry load for OBU

Updated: October 29, 2003, 1:50 AM ET

LITTLE ROCK -- Sophomore running back Josh Holcomb has been the latter part of Ouachita Baptist's 1-2 punch the past two seasons.

When senior MontoyaBrown went down with a knee injury on the first drive of the game last week, Holcomb showed he's ready to take over the lead role next year.

Holcomb carried the ball a career-high 25 times for 176 yards and three touchdowns as Ouachita Baptist lost a hard-fought 37-27 game to Southern Arkansas.

"I was prepared no matter what, but it was unexpected," said Holcomb, who already has 1,559 all-purpose yards in two years. "I was more tired than I have been in a while."

Holcomb has been the Tigers' primary kick returner this year, averaging 26.9 yards per kickoff return, which ranks second in the Gulf South Conference. He had 191 yards on five returns, including a 92-yard touchdown, in a 43-28 win on Sept. 27 against Central Arkansas.

He was named the Gulf South special teams player of the week and he earned a national player of the week honor, as well.

However, coach Todd Knight recruited Holcomb from Murfreesboro with the intention of making him a featured tailback.

Holcomb has spent the past two years learning how to do that from one of the best to ever suit up for Ouachita Baptist.Brown is fourth on the school's career rushing list with 3,444 yards. He had 1,000-yard seasons in 2000 and 2002.

Holcomb came in last year and rushed for 461 yards and four touchdowns, averaging 5.3 yards per carry.

After his breakout running performance against Southern Arkansas, Holcomb now has 452 yards and seven touchdowns this season, averaging 5.6 yards per carry.

"He hadn't had an opportunity yet because we've got what we think is an All-American in front of him," Knight said. "We think Josh is going to be the same type guy when he gets the opportunity and of course he did Saturday against a good football team."

Holcomb said he had offers from three other Gulf South schools and a small school in Illinois, but he chose Ouachita because it was a place where he could learn.

"One quality of being a great leader is being a great listener," Knight said. "He takes coaching from the staff and from players. He wants to be great and guys who want to be good take the criticism along with the praise."

Holcomb said thatBrown, who leads the team with 707 yards and nine touchdowns, stayed on the sideline after his injury and helped him out.

"This has given me the opportunity to learn from someone great," said Holcomb, who rushed for more than 4,000 yards at Murfreesboro. "That's another reason why I'm glad I chose OBU. He's pretty good about telling stuff. I've learned so much since high school just watching him.

"On Saturday, if he saw something that would help me out, he was telling me. He was real supportive."

Knight said he expectsBrown to be ready to play this Saturday when Ouachita Baptist plays rival Henderson State.

"They're great together. They're a great 1-2 punch," Knight said. "(Holcomb) still has some things he can improve upon. I really feel like he's going to be the guy and he is now."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index