Howard Scores Rare Touchdown

LEXINGTON, KY - Jaye Howard didn't even realize what happened. It all occurred so fast he didn't realize what was going on until he was standing in the end zone with the ball in his hands. His two-yard fumble recovery for a touchdown was the first time Howard had reached the end zone since his junior year of high school.

He even remembers the exact play. It came during his junior season at Jones High School, when the now 303-pound defensive tackle was still small enough to play linebacker. Howard intercepted a pass against Lake City Columbia and ran it in for a touchdown.

Saturday night was a little different. He benefited from a by hit delivered by linebacker Jon Bostic on quarterback Morgan Newton, leaving the ball floating end-over-end through the air. Howard reached up and caught it, then took just a few steps before reaching the end zone.

"All I saw was that Bostic hammered him," Jaye Howard said with a laugh. "Then I saw the ball up in the air and I just tried to go up and get it."

His teammates were confused to end the play. As Howard jogged off the field, they saw him breathing heavy. They would've understood if it was a long return by a lineman, but it was only a two-yard return for Howard.

"Weird," Omar Hunter said of his reaction to the play. "It was just weird. As soon as I got up and lifted my head, he was in the end zone and tired after two steps. I don't get that."

The play was ruled a fumble recovery as Newton's arm was still going backwards when Bostic hit him and forced the ball out. Howard said he didn't care whether he was credited with a sack or fumble. He actually didn't want either.

"It doesn't matter. I wish I would've had a sack, really," Howard said.

Howard's fumble recovery was the third of four turnovers the Gators forced during the game. Three came in the first half, something the Florida offense desperately needed after gaining just 23 yards on its first two drives and being pinned deep in its own territory.

Defensive coordinator Dan Quinn gives the Florida defense a goal for turnovers each game, and the goal against Kentucky was to record four. That's exactly what the defense did, capped off when Michael Taylor intercepted a pass in the third quarter.

"If we do that, we take pressure off the whole offense," Howard said of the turnovers. "We get to the quarterback and make big plays and fumble recoveries like Omar (Hunter) had today. It just brings energy to everyone."

The Gators now shift their focus to Alabama. When the Crimson Tide come to Gainesville on Saturday for an 8 p.m. kickoff, it'll be a familiar setting to last year. Both teams are undefeated heading into the nationally televised night game.

Despite the outcome of last year's game, Howard doesn't expect the Gators to change anything this week just because it'll be their biggest challenge of the year.

"Every game is no different," Howard said. "We'll prepare the same each week. We just have to go out and work hard every week.

"Once we land in Gainesville, it's out of our system. We're looking to Alabama then."

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