Draft-bound Brown steps up big as UConn thwarts Buffalo

TORONTO -- Connecticut's Donald Brown showed he has nothing left to prove at the college level.

Brown ran for a career-best 261 yards in his final college game, helping the fumble-prone Huskies overcome a mistake-filled first half and defeat Buffalo 38-20 in the International Bowl on Saturday.

After becoming the 14th player in major college history to run for 2,000 yards in a season, the junior running back broke the bad news to UConn fans.

"OK, tell them, bud," coach Randy Edsall said, slapping Brown on the back at the postgame interview table.

"I'm not coming back," Brown said. "I'm going to pursue the NFL."

He then apologized for saying three weeks ago that he planned to return to Connecticut for his senior season.

The nation's leading rusher said he made the commitment to return to stop speculation and negate a potential distraction for his team heading into the game at Toronto.

"I apologize for quote, unquote lying, but I did it to protect my team," Brown said. "They mean the world to me, so I'm willing to put my neck on the line for them."

He proved that in the first half against the Bulls, when he had 208 yards rushing -- 6 short of matching a career best -- and kept the Huskies in a game. UConn turned the ball over five times in the first 30 minutes.

Brown scored on a 45-yard run and then added a career-best 75-yarder to set up quarterback Tyler Lorenzen's touchdown run.

Lorenzen then put the Huskies ahead for good 10 minutes into the third quarter by completing his first pass, a 4-yarder to tight end Steve Brouse for a 24-20 lead.

In overcoming a 20-10 deficit, the Huskies (8-5) won their second of three bowl appearances since joining the Big East in 2004.

The Mid-American champion Bulls (8-6) had their breakout season under coach Turner Gill end with a loss in their bowl debut. Buffalo scored all its points off turnovers.

Gill wasn't too disappointed for a team that registered its first winning season since 1996 and orchestrated one of the most monumental turnarounds in college football. The Bulls were 10-69 in seven seasons prior to Gill's arrival three years ago.

"Obviously, we didn't come out on the right end of it, but I'm still going to have a smile on my face. I'm so proud of this football team," Gill said. "This isn't going to be a one-year wonder. I do believe we're going to be vying for championships year after year."

The Huskies defense -- ranked 10th in the nation in yards allowed -- played to its stout reputation, containing a Bulls offense that had produced a school-record 404 points. UConn limited Buffalo to 237 yards offense and 10 first downs -- and only five through three quarters.

Linebacker Dahna Deleston dealt the final blow, intercepting Drew Willy's pass intended for Naaman Roosevelt at the goal line and returning it 100 yards for a touchdown.

Deleston was so exhausted after matching the school's longest interception return he collapsed in the end zone.

Brown, by comparison, was still fresh after being held out for the most of the final quarter with the game in hand. He finished with 29 carries.

Edsall's only disappointment in losing Brown to the NFL was a belief the running back didn't get enough recognition for his achievements this season.

"It's just a shame that the people in Connecticut won't get one more year to see him play, and the people around the nation who missed out on honoring this kid for what he did this year," Edsall said, his voice beginning to tremble with emotion. "I told him I'll be his biggest fan as he moves forward. I love the kid to death and I know he's going to be very successful."

Edsall said the next step is for Brown to fill out an application to submit to the NFL, a process required by all juniors requesting to enter the draft.

Brown ends this season with 2,083 yards rushing -- the 11th best total in college football's top division -- and he set a school record with 18 TDs.

The game didn't start well for UConn, a team that looked very much like the one that committed five turnovers in a regular season-ending 34-10 loss to Pittsburgh.

Buffalo's Ray Anthony Long recovered Jasper Howard's muffed punt in the end zone. Starks' score came after another Huskies' miscue.

Robbie Frey had a kickoff go off his hand and into the end zone. Rather than downing the ball for what would've been a touchback, Frey ran the ball out and had it jarred loose by Justin Winters and recovered by Buffalo's John Syty at the UConn 4.

When UConn stopped helping the Bulls, Buffalo couldn't get it done on its own.

"I wish we could have done more on offense," Willy said. "They're a good defense, I'll give it to them. But we left some plays on the field."