Sperduto, Kats can

Wednesday, May 23, 2001 at 1:00am

"No Place to Run To" is a lyric from an old Martha and the Vandellas song, but it can also describe the offensive philosophy of many of the teams in the Arena Football League.

Place the Nashville Kats, however, in the exception-to-the-rule column. The Kats (4-2) head into Friday night's game against the Houston Thunderbears (2-4) with the third best rushing average in the league at 28.3 yards per game. Last season the Kats led the league in rushing yards. They will be facing a Thunderbears defensive unit that is allowing 32 yards per game on the ground, the worst in the league against the rush.

"I would like for us to run for 100 yards per game," Sperduto said. "The running game is so critical to us because it slows down the football game for us. It allows our defense to be fresher when they get out there, and it allows them to perform better.

"When our guys don't run the ball well, or when we don't run the ball effectively or a bunch of times, we struggle. Look at the averages. We are in the top three in rushing."

Sperduto agrees that most fans don't think of the league as one that produces strong runners. He said the run, even though it is an integral part of his team's attack, does not serve the same purpose in eight-man football as it does in the standard 11-man version.

"In 11-man football you use the pass to set up the run," Sperduto said. "In our game we use the run to set up the pass. Basically, we're trying to throw our opponent off. We are very different from most teams."

In addition to fullback-linebacker Rupert "Dogghead" Grant, fourth in the league in rushing with 70 yards (four touchdowns), the Kats are also not hesitant to give the ball to one of the receivers on a rushing play.

"Jarrick Hillery (seven rushing TDs) is our tailback," Sperduto said. "Darryl Hammond is our Marcus Allen. Jarrick is our Emmitt Smith. Tyronne Jones is also in there."

Hillery admits that running the ball is one of the things he enjoys most since he came into the league as a running back. But the going isn't easy.

"It's a lot different on this type of field," Hillery said. "It's a lot tougher to run the ball on this field because it is smaller. You make a move and try to cut back, and you still have a lot of people coming after you. It's harder to get away. You have to adjust to what you are doing."

Rushing yardage is expensive in terms of effort expended regardless of the league. The Kats

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