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Saturday, January 3, 2009
Brown powers UConn to International Bowl win


Posted by ESPN.com's Brian Bennett

If all you knew about the International Bowl was that Connecticut lost five first-half fumbles and completed only four passes all game, you'd probably think that Buffalo won easily.

 
  AP Photo/The Canadian Press/Chris Young
  UConn running back Donald Brown ended the season – and possibly his college career -– on a high note, rushing for a career-high 261 yards his team's 38-20 International Bowl win over Buffalo.

But what you'd need to know is that the Huskies' offensive line dominated the action all day, their defense shut down the Bulls' passing game and that Donald Brown decided to make a major closing statement in UConn's 38-20 win.

Brown, who led the nation in rushing during the regular season, capped his spectacular junior year with a career-high 261 yards on 29 carries -- an average of nine yards per rush -- and a touchdown. Brown finished with 2,083 yards and 18 scores this year. Someone must please tell me again how in the world he did not make the Doak Walker Award finalist list? What an absolute joke.

Brown now will have a decision to make about the NFL Draft in the next two weeks. He has said he wants to stay for his senior year, but he's going to explore his options with coach Randy Edsall. I think he'd be wise to leave because how is his stock ever going to get higher? If that was his last game, it was quite a curtain call. If it wasn't he deserves to be mentioned as a Heisman Trophy candidate in 2009.

Here's how good Brown and his offensive line were: UConn didn't throw a single pass in the first half and attempted only six all game. Tyler Lorenzen's first completion came in the third quarter and went for a touchdown. Edsall's team has had all kinds of problems in the passing game this season, so he decided just to ignore it. Buffalo knew what was coming but had no answer.

Another of Connecticut's major issues this year was turnovers, and it looked like that would doom them in this bowl. The Huskies gave the ball away five times in that first half, three of them coming on kick or punt returns. One of those was recovered for a touchdown, and all of them set up the Bulls in great field positon.

But Buffalo converted those mistakes into just 20 points and held onto an illusive 20-17 lead at halftime. The Bulls finished with just 237 total yards, many of those coming late. Quarterback Drew Willy, who threw for more than 3,100 yards in the regular season, couldn't find many lanes to throw against the UConn defense, and the Buffalo running game produced next to nothing.

It was an impressive show of physical dominance by Connecticut (8-5), which captured the second bowl victory in school history. And the Huskies made sure that the Big East finished with a winning postseason record. The league finished 4-2 in its six bowl games after a 3-0 start.