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ECU contingent in on Hula Bowl victory

From wire and staff reports

HONOLULU — Central Florida's Brandon Marshall had another successful trip to paradise.

The brawny wide receiver caught five passes for 101 yards and a touchdown to lead the East to a 10-7 victory over the West in the 60th edition of the Hula Bowl on Saturday.

Marshall was playing in his second bowl game in Hawaii in less than a month. Marshall had 11 catches for 210 yards and three touchdowns to win co-MVP honors in the Hawaii Bowl on Dec. 24.

East Carolina was represented on the field and the sideline in the East's win. Linebacker Chris Moore and offensive lineman Guy Whimper joined coach Skip Holtz on the squad.

Holtz, an offensive sage, assisted Auburn's Tommy Tuberville, the squad's head coach.

Memphis quarterback/receiver Maurice Avery also played for the East, while Southern Methodist punter Ryan Mentzel and Rice linebacker John Syptak suited up for the West.

Although Marshall received the most MVP votes by the media in the Hula Bowl, the coaches trumped the selection and chose their own MVPs.

Illinois State defensive end Brent Hawkins, whose sack of Missouri quarterback Brad Smith forced a fumble in the fourth quarter, was the MVP for the East. Smith was the MVP for the West.

"What's up with the MVP?" Marshall asked his coaches with a smile during the award presentations.

Despite missing out on the award, Marshall was plenty impressive enough for Holtz, who said the 6-foot-6, 230-pound Marshall impressed him all week and improved his stock heading up to the NFL draft.

"He has a big body and is very physical. He's very hard to press and he's so tall, he can go up and get a jump ball," Holtz said.

Marshall hopes to return to Hawaii in the future, as a Pro Bowl selection in the NFL.

"I love coming here and if that's what it's going to take to get me back, then I'm going to have to work hard to come back," he said.

In front of a few thousand fans, the game became a defensive showdown after each team scored on their opening drives. Both teams struggled to move the ball, with receivers dropping passes, quarterbacks scrambling backward and running backs unable to break free.

The East held the West to 136 total yards, including just 53 yards passing. The West averaged 2.4 yards per play.

Iowa State safety Steve Paris intercepted a long pass thrown by Texas State's Barrick Nealy, setting up the East's go-ahead touchdown in the second quarter.

A quick 10-yard TD pass from Linfield's Brett Elliott to Marshall gave the East a 10-7 lead and capped a five-play, 76-yard drive.

Marshall also made a nice move after the score, dancing hula in the corner of the end zone.

His only mistake in the game was an offensive pass-interference penalty that negated a 42-yard gain in the third quarter with the East on its own 2.

Miami of Ohio quarterback Josh Betts was 7-of-15 for 106 yards for the East. Georgia Tech's P.J. Daniels led all rushers with 54 yards on 12 carries.

Smith, who started at quarterback for the West, scored on a 16-yard run to give the West a 7-0 lead. Smith broke left but quickly ran into traffic. He reversed, got a couple of blocks from his receivers and dashed into the end zone.

Smith went 4-of-12 for 58 yards and Nealy was 1-of-9 for minus-5 yards.

"I wish I could have made more plays but we had to take what was there," said Smith, who rushed eight times for minus-4 yards. "I'm a winner and anytime I lose, I hate it. I just want to win more than anything."

Notre Dame's D.J. Fitzpatrick kicked a 36-yard field goal to cut the West's advantage to 7-3.

The West failed to take advantage of two East turnovers late in the game.

The West took possession on the East's 21 on an interception and 22-yard return by Iowa's Jovon Johnson. On third-and-long, Smith scrambled and lost 15 yards, taking the West out of field-goal range.

A few plays later, the West regained possession on its own 45 on an interception by Missouri's Marcus King. But Smith, pressing to make a play, was hit by Hawkins and fumbled the ball.

Hawkins hopes his MVP honor got the attention of NFL scouts.

"It was something that I thought was attainable and I went out and did my job today," he said.

©2006 The Associated Press. All rights rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. contributed to this report.

02/23/2007 10:42:54 AM


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