Donald Brown saved his best for last.
Brown, Connecticut's all-American running back, put on a tour-de-force performance yesterday afternoon as he slashed his way to a personal best 261 yards rushing to power the Huskies to a come-from-behind 38-20 victory over the Buffalo Bulls in the International Bowl.
Brown, who gained 1,822 yards rushing during the regular season, announced after the game that he will forego his senior year with the Huskies to enter this year's National Football League draft.
"I'm not coming back, I'm going to the NFL," the 5-foot-10, 210-pound back said. "I know I told you guys earlier (in the week) that I was coming back but that was to eliminate distractions for our team. I apologize for that."
Brown, who went out in a blaze of glory, said the credit yesterday goes to the five guys in front of him.
"With the offensive line we have, it doesn't surprise me," Brown said of his magical game. "When they lead me up to the second level (of defenders), it's easy for a running back."
Brown, the leading NCAA rusher, piled up his yards on 29 carries while the Huskies totalled 358 yards on the ground overall.
"There are not enough superlatives that I can say about his performance and about his year," Connecticut head coach Randy Edsall said of Brown. "We had a stallion on our offence and we rode him all the way to the finish line. He's a Triple Crown winner."
Rushing dominance allowed Connecticut quarterback Tyler Lorenzen to keep the ball out of the air. He didn't complete a pass until tossing a four-yard TD strike to tight end Steve Brouse at 5:22 of the third quarter. It was just his second pass attempt of the game. Lorenzen ran for two other TDs.
Brown's performance before a crowd of 40,184 rallied the Huskies from a 20-10 second-quarter deficit built on the back of five first-half Connecticut fumbles.
Despite being outplayed the entire game, the Huskies didn't put it away until Lorenzen ran it in from the 15-yard line with 4:44 to go to give his team a 31-20 lead. Dahna Deleston closed out the scoring with an electrifying 102-yard interception return.
Offensively, the Bulls were held in check the full 60 minutes as they were held to 10 first downs, most of them coming in the garbage time at the end of the game.
Of all the dismal Buffalo stats, the most depressing and telling was its third down conversion rate of 2-for-17.
"We didn't come out on the right end of it," Buffalo head coach Turner Gill said of his Cinderella team. "We didn't execute as well as we had hoped for but a lot of that had to do with Connecticut. They were the best football team today."
The opening half was absolutely goofy in just about every which way imaginable.
Goofy overall, a horror show for the Huskies.
"It was a tale of two halves," Edsall said. "The first half we shot ourselves in the foot with our turnovers."
The best play in the Buffalo playbook was punter Peter Fardon hoofing the ball as three of the Huskies' fumbles were committed by their punt return team.
The first four Connecticut fumbles led to all 20 of the Bulls' first-half points on two field goals by A.J. Principe, a fumble recovery in the end zone by Ray Anthony Long and a four-yard TD run by James Starks. The Bulls' 17 consecutive points took just 3:41, involved zero first downs, two possessions and all of 10 yards of total offence.
Brown, meanwhile, was a one-man gang for the Huskies as his 208 yards came on 16 carries, including a 75-yard gallop in the second quarter -- his longest run of the season. He also had a 45-yard TD run.
As another oddity, Lorenzen attempted just one pass -- it was incomplete -- in the entire first half.