University of Georgia

Howard's Sugar Bowl performance fuels NFL aspirations

NEW ORLEANS – Even before Tuesday night’s Sugar Bowl, Marcus Howard was doing something right, he figures.

“The NFL scouts must be seeing something because I got an NFL combine invite,” Howard said.

Georgia’s senior defensive end was named the Sugar Bowl’s Most Outstanding Player early Wednesday morning after tying the BCS bowl record with three sacks in the No. 4 Bulldogs’ 41-10 shellacking of No. 10 Hawaii in the Louisiana Superdome.

Howard had four tackles and also forced two fumbles, recovering one himself for a touchdown. He became the Sugar Bowl’s first defensive MOP since Alabama linebacker Barry Krauss in 1979.

“He had a (heck) of a game, a (heck) of a game,” linebacker Dannell Ellerbe said.

Ellerbe felt Howard would have a good game after watching film of the Warriors’ offensive line, he said. Hawaii’s tackles weren’t quick enough to stay in front of the speedy Howard, Ellerbe said.

“I thought that all the defensive ends would have a big game against their tackles,” Howard said. “We saw the Fresno State game (against Hawaii), and I think they had about three sacks in the first half. (Defensive ends coach Jon Fabris) asked what I thought about (Hawaii’s) offensive line, and I said, ‘Well, I don’t think Fresno State’s defensive line is nearly as good as our defensive line.’”

Howard’s award was a small bit of vindication for Fabris, who still is upset defensive end Will Thompson wasn’t named the most outstanding player in Georgia’s Sugar Bowl victory over Florida State following the 2002 season.

“He was just happy,” Howard said. “He just told me to soak it all in. I just want to tell him thank you for giving me the opportunity to play. He believed in me when some people didn’t.”

Howard, 6-foot-2, 235 pounds, was moved from linebacker to defensive end midway through his career. He had to wait until his senior season to receive significant playing time, a fact he passed on to fellow defensive end Jarius Wynn, a rising senior, this week in New Orleans in trying to encourage Wynn.

“It’s not how you come in, it’s how you leave,” Howard said. “I had a great year. I just had a great game. Anybody can do anything in one year as long as you believe and play hard.”

Howard was the third Bulldog to be named the game’s most valuable player, joining Herschel Walker (1981) and Musa Smith (2003). Howard is close to signing with an agent, he indicated after the Sugar Bowl.

“I pretty much have an agent,” he said.

Howard’s big night gave him 79 tackles and 12 sacks for his career. He had 10.5 sacks this season, leading Georgia in that category.