Georgia romps past Hawaii in Sugar Bowl

January 2, 2008 1:31:06 PM PST
There was no repeat of the Boise State Miracle. The Georgia Bulldogs were simply too big, too fast and too strong for the team from paradise. Hawaii's bid at perfection ended with a thud in the Sugar Bowl, where the black-clad Bulldogs took out their frustration at getting passed over for a shot at the BCS championship with a 41-10 rout of Colt Brennan and the overmatched Warriors on Tuesday night.

"We're No. 1," Georgia safety Kelin Johnson proclaimed. "We're supposed to be in the national championship game. The nation knows it, everyone knows it."

Getting a headstart on next season on the first day of the new year, No. 4 Georgia (11-2) established itself as a leading contender in 2008 with a total whippin' of the 10th-ranked Warriors (12-1), who cracked the BCS with an unbeaten run through the Western Athletic Conference.

They are perfect no more. This night was nothing but a four-hour-plus rendition of "Glory, Glory To Ol' Georgia."

"We wanted to make it like a national championship game," said Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford. "We prepared really hard and it showed."

Knowshon Moreno ran for a pair of touchdowns in the opening quarter and the Bulldogs' defense made life miserable for Brennan, a Heisman Trophy finalist and catalyst for the nation's highest-scoring team. He was sacked eight times, threw three interceptions and lost two fumbles, one of them recovered for a Georgia touchdown.

After getting slammed to the Superdome turf one last time by Geno Atkins, Brennan staggered to the sideline, his night mercifully done. The junior had the worst showing of his career in a game played to the finish, going 22-of-38 for just 169 yards - less than half of his 348-yard average this season.

The Bulldogs led 24-3 by halftime and quickly snuffed out any chance that Brennan might lead an improbable comeback, as he did in bringing Hawaii back from a 21-point deficit in their regular-season finale against Washington.

On Hawaii's first possession after the break, Brennan was sacked by Roderick Battle, then picked off by Asher Allen. The Warriors held, getting an interception of their own on a tipped ball, but that merely set up Brennan for more misery.

"We wanted to make Colt throw it faster than he wanted to," said Georgia coach Mark Richt.

Marcus Howard, who spent as much time in the Hawaii backfield as the guys wearing white, sped by tackle Keoni Steinhoff like he wasn't even there and crashed into Brennan. The ball rolled loose in the end zone and Howard recovered, giving him as many touchdowns as the vaunted run-and-shoot offense that was averaging 46.2 points a game.

As it was, Georgia set a school record with the highest-scoring bowl game of its long, proud history, eclipsing a 40-26 win over TCU in the 1942 Orange Bowl.

"Colt Brennan is a great quarterback," Johnson said. "We knew we had to get physical today, and we did that with them. Our defensive line was wonderful. Our secondary was wonderful."

Especially game MVP Howard, who had to wait until his senior year to start. He sure went out with a bang in this final college game: three sacks, two forced fumbles and a tipped ball that was intercepted by teammate Dannell Ellerbe. Allen picked off two Hawaii throws. Freshman Rennie Curran chipped in with two sacks.

After Ellerbe's pick, defensive coordinator Willie Martinez leaped into his player's arms along the sideline, giddy at the way his unit shut down a team that had eight 40-point games this season.

Georgia lobbied for a spot in the title game after the top two teams in the BCS rankings lost on the final day of the regular season. But the Bulldogs, who didn't even make the SEC championship game, failed to move up and had to settle for their third Sugar Bowl appearance in five years.

With their title hopes dashed, coach Mark Richt urged his players to get a good start on 2008, knowing an impressive win over the Warriors would surely set up the Dawgs for a top-five ranking at the start of next season - and better positioning for a run at No. 1.

Consider it done. Hawaii hoped to follow the lead set by WAC rival Boise State, which capped last year's perfect season with a stunning overtime win against Oklahoma in the Fiesta Bowl. In the locker room before the game, coach June Jones urged his team to "play with confidence, like you belong."

They didn't.

Brennan ran up against a swarming Georgia defense that was in no mood to give the little guys another day in the sun. In the first half alone, he was sacked five times and turned it over twice, losing a fumble and throwing an interception.

"We've never played in this element," Brennan said. "We got here and we tried as hard as we could to keep it as normal as we're used to, but it just seemed like we weren't used to this kind of venue. We weren't used to the crowd noise. We couldn't get our audibles.

"It was the fastest team I've probably ever seen. We just couldn't get into our groove and do what we wanted to do."

Hawaii finally got to the end zone with 10½ minutes to go and backup quarterback Tyler Graunke running the offense. He tossed a meaningless 16-yard TD pass to Ryan Grice-Mullen while Brennan watched from the sideline.

In all fairness to the Hawaii star, this wasn't really a fair fight.


Load Comments