Howard Creates 'MO'mentum

If you asked most fans to pick out the linebacker who would make the first big play of the 2002 season, Mo Howard's name probably wouldn't have come up too often.

However, it was the Baltimore, Maryland native who did so by blocking a UTC punt in the red zone, which gave the Mountaineers the ball at the Mocs three yard line. The WVU offense immediatley responded with their second touchdown, and the rout was on.

"Coach called an eight man rush," Howard explained of the strategy employed on the play. "I took one step inside, and went where the blocker had just left. He took the bait, and I got around him and came through and blocked it.

"When I did that, I thought 'I can't be this open'. My next thought was 'Am I close enough to block it without hitting the kicker'? But then I saw that the punter hadn't even dropped the ball yet, so I just dove for it.

"At first I wasn't sure that I blocked it," Howard said of his big play. "You're always diving for the ball, so when you get it it's almost like a feeling of disbelief. The next thought is too look for the ball, because you don't want them to pick it up and run for a first down. When I saw we had it, that's when I got happy.

"Coach Stewart said we could block some punts today. He stressed getting off the ball quick and hitting our gaps. We only had punt rush on twice today, and we almost got the second one too."

A thoughtful player who has become an excellent special teams performer, Howard expects the punt block to pay further dividends than the seven points it resulted in against UTC.

"It gives us a lot of confidence. Other teams see that on tape, and they get a little worried. And it helps us, because we know we can do it, so we may go for some more. I think we'll block more this year."

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