STORRS, Conn. (AP) -- Donald Brown hadn't been a big part of Connecticut's big season, until Saturday.
The sophomore tailback came off the bench to run for 154 yards and a touchdown, leading UConn over Rutgers 38-19 and giving the Huskies an 8-1 record for the first time.
Brown, who had been averaging about 52 yards a game for the Huskies (No. 13 BCS, No. 16 AP) and lost his starting job to the faster Andre Dixon, had a 33-yard touchdown run in the third quarter and a 70-yard run to set up a fourth-quarter field goal that helped put the game out of reach. He carried the ball 24 times, 22 in the second half when UConn (8-1, 4-0 Big East) took control of the clock.
"Earlier in the season, I feel I was pressing a lot, I was trying to hit the home run too much," Brown said. "I just had to be who I am and not someone I'm not."
Dixon rushed 10 times for 35 yards, a week after carrying the ball 32 times for 167 yards in a win over South Florida.
"We went with the hot hand," UConn coach Randy Edsall said. "It was good because he's been a lot fresher than Andre, so it was good for him to go in there and see him do that. We're going to need both of them."
Brown's performance came a year after he made his college debut against Rutgers, rushing for 199 yards in a 24-13 loss. The Huskies went 4-8 that season and were picked to finish seventh in the eight-team Big East this year.
Instead, at 4-0 they are the only undefeated team in the conference, ahead of 2-1 West Virginia. The Huskies, who moved into the rankings for the first time in their 109-year history this week, and are also 6-0 at home for the first time.
Tyler Lorenzen threw for 140 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 67 yards, and the Huskies' special teams accounted for nine points, with a safety and a 97-yard kickoff return by Tyvon Branch.
Jeremy Ito had four field goals for Rutgers (5-4, 1-3), but missed a key 34-yarder in the third quarter that would have cut UConn's lead to 10 points. Ray Rice ran 21 times for 116 yards and a touchdown but 97 of those came in the first half. Mike Teel was 32-of-52 for 343 yards and an interception. Kenny Britt caught seven of those passes for 101 yards.
"There's a fine line between winning and losing," Rice said. "Right now, it's tough to tell where we're at. I guess we just have to go back home and look forward to these next three games."
The Huskies came into the game ranked 10th nationally in total defense, giving up just over 293 yards. Rutgers rolled up 511 yards in this one, including 307 yards in the first half, when they held the ball for over 20 minutes. However, the Scarlet Knights had drives of 72, 74 and 69 yards result in field goals instead of touchdowns.
UConn led 25-16 at intermission despite running just 19 plays to Rutgers' 51.
"We just had to bow up," UConn defensive tackle Dan Davis said. "One thing we pride ourselves on is red-zone defense, and all year we've been pretty good at that. We bend and give up some yardage, but stop them in the red zone."
Quarterback-turned-receiver D.J. Hernandez got the Huskies on the scoreboard first by blocking a punt through the end zone after the Scarlet Knights' first drive.
The Huskies took the free kick and scored in eight plays on a 2-yard touchdown pass from Lorenzen to tight end Steve Brouse, the sixth time this season the Huskies have scored on their opening drive.
Lorenzen also connected with Terence Jeffers on a 34-yard touchdown pass down the right sideline.
A 29-yard field goal by Ito capped a 7 minute, 15-play drive and made the score 18-6 in the second quarter. But 15 seconds later, it was 25-6.
UConn's Branch took the kickoff on the 3, cut left, deked defensive back Joe Lefeged and sprinted down the left side for 97 yard and his second return for a touchdown this season.
"Momentum is a funny thing," Branch said. "Everybody's been talking about me not having juke moves, so I had to show them something."
The Huskies had 228 yards in kick and punt return yardage.
UConn's Tony Ciaravino missed an extra point in the first half, but also kicked three field goals, giving him 19 for the season.
Two more wins would likely secure a playoff bid for Clemson, and No. 14 North Carolina is rolling but has a lot of ground to make up in the rankings.
The Big 12 finally got into the top four with Oklahoma, while Baylor and Oklahoma State also still have a shot at cracking the top spots.
With four teams in the top 10 of the College Football Playoff rankings, there are plenty of things to watch down the stretch in the Big Ten.
Alabama and Florida are the SEC's only hopes of reaching the College Football Playoff, and both face rivals this week.
Only one team from the Pac-12 remains in playoff contention -- No. 9 Stanford. The Cardinal need a combination of wins and chaos to qualify.
Mike Greenberg details why the committee should have ranked Michigan State ahead of Oklahoma.