January 2, 2008

Howard wins MVP

NEW ORLEANS - Marcus Howard likes to joke that when he first arrived at Georgia, he was small, not even tipping the scales at 200 pounds.

The Bulldogs' senior defensive end could not have played any bigger a role in Tuesday night's 41-10 Sugar Bowl victory against Hawaii.

"It's not how you come in but how you leave," said Howard, who was named the Sugar Bowl MVP after his three-sack performance against the Warriors, including one which forced a fumble that he recovered in the end zone for Georgia's next-to-last score.

Winning the trophy wasn't Howard's only good news.

The senior from Huger, S.C. also announced that he's been invited to the upcoming NFL combine, which he hopes to use as his ticket to the pros in April's draft.

No doubt Tuesday's effort helped those aspirations as well. Howard was part of a defense that beat Hawaii quarterback Colt Brennan silly, as the Bulldogs' speed on defense gave the Heisman trophy finalist more fits than he ever imagined.

Howard's three sacks were a huge part of Georgia's season-high eight against a team that led the nation in scoring this year at nearly 50 points per game.

Who said speed kills? Err, Howard did.

"No disrespect to the WAC, but I felt our defensive line is one of the best in the nation," Howard said. "At times we didn't show it, but other times we had big-time ball games like we did against Florida, Auburn, Kentucky and now Hawaii."

Howard's sack and subsequent fumble recovery for a touchdown stamped Georgia's victory in a significant way.

Brennan faded back to pass when Howard shot through the Hawaii offensive line, slamming into the quarterback who fumbled the ball back toward the end zone. Howard was only too happy to fall on the football for the score.

"The SEC is probably the fastest in college football, and we got a first-hand taste of that tonight," Brennan said. "(Howard) was tough. Georgia is a great football team. I'm just really disappointed that we didn't show up and at least play our type of football. It's disappointing because we're a much better football team than what we showed tonight."

Howard was also part of the reason that Brennan was forced to leave the game early in the fourth quarter.

In the post-game press conference, Brennan admitted that Howard's hit bruised his hand, which hampered his ability to grip the football.

Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris was obviously pleased.

The two embraced on the field following Georgia's 31-point win, a victory that will give the Bulldogs a top-five preseason ranking to start next fall.

Howard thinks Georgia should have gotten the chance to go for No. 1 this year.

"I feel we're the No. 1 team in the country," Howard said.

Bulldog fans certainly won't argue with that after a game Howard said he couldn't wait to play.

"Thomas Flowers was my roommate and neither one of us could sleep (Monday night). I got up at 9 a.m. when we didn't have to get up until 11:15 because I was so ready to play this game," Howard said. "I was so emotional. I couldn't wait to get out here."

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