Sugar high for Bulldogs
NEW ORLEANS - There was a lot of talk before the Allstate Sugar Bowl about Hawai'i possibly pulling off a Boise State-type upset against Georgia.
In what many consider last season's best bowl matchup, Boise State upset heavily-favored Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl in overtime and made a name for itself on the national level, finishing the season undefeated.
This season, Hawai'i was unable to duplicate such a feat.
Georgia (11-2) stifled the Warriors' high-powered offense on its way to a decisive 41-10 victory.
The Bulldogs' defensive intensity was expected by many. But the way the Warriors (12-1) failed to adjust to that intensity was surprising.
If the Sugar Bowl was the casual football fan's first look at Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan, they may be wondering what all the hype was about. Brennan finished the game 22-of-38 for only 169 yards. He threw three interceptions and was sacked eight times.
Without their leader at his best, the Warriors had a slim chance at victory.
"Obviously we needed to play our best game to compete," Hawai'i coach June Jones said. "We just couldn't get into a rhythm. We didn't play the type of game we needed to play tonight."
"We couldn't get going," Brennan added. "We couldn't get any momentum to build on ... It just was not our night."
Hawai'i's struggles were evident from the very beginning. The Warriors were called for two penalties on their first possession and were flagged for a third on the punt that followed. Miscues like those helped Georgia to a 14-3 first-quarter lead, and the Bulldogs never looked back.
"We have the ultimate respect for Hawai'i," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We conditioned them more for this bowl game than any other bowl game since I've been here."
The Bulldogs were prepared for an offense that came to New Orleans averaging 529 yards and 46 points per game. Both Brennan and Jones said Georgia's overall team speed gave the Bulldogs a hefty advantage.
"The SEC is probably the fastest conference in college football," Brennan said. "And we got a first-hand taste of that tonight."
Georgia outgained Hawai'i offensively, 334-306. However, 151 of those Warriors' yards came in the fourth quarter when the game was decisively out of reach.
Bulldogs' quarterback Matthew Stafford quietly put together a nice game, completing 14 of 23 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown. Freshman running back Knowshon Moreno rushed for two scores in the game's opening period and ended up with 61 yards on nine carries.
Warriors' receiver Jason Rivers finished with 10 catches for 105 yards. Ryan Grice-Mullen had six grabs for 37 yards and scored his team's only touchdown.
Thewin was Georgia's seventh in a row to end the season. The loss left Brennan, a senior, with a terrible memory of his final collegiate game. He said he'll just have to roll with the punches and try to forget about the loss.
"I took one right in the mouth tonight," he said.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Georgia's Marcus Howard ... The game's MVP had four tackles, three sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery for a touchdown.
PLAY OF THE GAME: Howard's fumble recovery ... Howard's recovery of his own forced fumble made the score 31-3 and basically put the game out of reach.
NEXT UP: Hawai'i won't have to wait too long for a rematch against an SEC opponent. They open the 2008 season on the road against Florida ... Georgia is still a very young football team and could very well be ranked in the top-5 in next season's preseason rankings.
NOTES: Brennan was knocked out of action late in the game and was replaced by junior Tyler Graunke, who finished 13-of-19 for 142 yards and a touchdown ... The Sugar Bowl appearance was Georgia's third in the past season seasons. They are 2-1 in those contests.