DONALD BROWN made his final run of the game count. Late in the fourth quarter of Connecticut's 31--28 defeat of Baylor last Friday night in Hartford, the Huskies' junior running back capped a 150-yard, two-touchdown tour de force by sprinting three yards around right end for the winning score.
The carry may have been his 34th of the game, but the 5'10", 210-pound Brown—who to that point had earned most of his yardage between the tackles—easily outsprinted five Bears to the end zone, no doubt impressing the 17 NFL scouts in attendance. "He's a tough guy to bring down once he gets going," Baylor coach Art Briles said afterward.
The leading rusher in Division I-A (179.0 yards per game), Brown is flashing the kind of talent and production that will force his name onto the list of Heisman Trophy candidates, provided 4--0 UConn keeps winning. In addition to his quick burst and overall speed—he ran a 4.29 40 as a junior at Red Bank (N.J.) Catholic High—Brown also is one of the strongest players on the Huskies' roster, capable of squatting 600 pounds. (On one carry early in the third quarter last Friday, Brown dragged a linebacker from three yards behind the line of scrimmage for a four-yard gain.)
That determined running style is no accident. A physical-fitness devotee and exercise science major—his current favorite read is the book Mind Gym—Brown has been obsessed with diet and conditioning since the end of his sophomore year at Red Bank Catholic, when coach Frank Edgerly told him that speed alone was not enough to win the starting job at running back. The slender Brown threw himself into the task of getting stronger, bulking up from 180 pounds to nearly 200 by his senior year. "Dinner would take a long time," says his mother, Lisa. "He could put away a whole chicken all by himself."
September 28, 2008
As a senior Brown rushed for 2,032 yards and 27 touchdowns and received scholarship offers from such big-time programs as Nebraska, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin. But several of those schools recruited him as a cornerback, and he preferred to stay on offense. So he chose UConn, just three hours from home, because coach Randy Edsall was willing to give him the ball. "This is what I've been preparing for," he says. "It worked out great for me."
Brown's 716 rushing yards account for more than 42% of the Huskies' total offense, and he has carried the ball on nearly 40% of the snaps out of their pro-style offense. Indeed, the passing game appears to be little more than a distraction to keep opponents from teeing off on Brown. UConn's wideouts are pedestrian, and lefthanded quarterback Tyler Lorenzen, a transfer from Iowa State with ghastly mechanics, threw six interceptions in the first four games.
Baylor stacked eight defenders near the line of scrimmage and still was unable to stop Brown, but stouter defenses await—beginning this Friday with Louisville's, which is ranked second in the country against the run. "We know we're going to have to be able to throw the ball," says Edsall, "but I would never bet against Donald Brown."
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