Chasing down a dream season
NEW ORLEANS » Colt Brennan may be old and gray before he fully appreciates what he has meant to the University of Hawaii.
From that infectious smile off the field to his passionate competitiveness on it, No. 15 has forever changed the landscape of the 50th state. Fans can't get enough of the 24-year-old from Southern California, whether it be at autograph sessions during the week or Saturday nights at Aloha Stadium. This kid has embraced the islands like few before him.
Sweet Matchup: Hawaii (12-0) vs. Georgia (10-2)
When: Today, 3:30 p.m., Hawaii time
Where: Louisiana Superdome, New Orleans
TV: KHON, Ch. 3
Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM
Line: Georgia by 7 1/2
As he prepares for his final game in a Warriors uniform, you have to wonder if he has enough in him to lift the underdog Hawaii football team past No. 4-ranked Georgia of the big, bad SEC in tonight's Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Superdome in New Orleans.
The belief system that permeates the program begins and ends with him. He has shown time and again that he is capable of overcoming all obstacles, whether it be back in Colorado when his life was in shambles, right through the final game of the season as Hawaii fell behind Washington 21-0, before he pulled out the win.
There is no way Georgia can fully appreciate what Brennan has meant to the program or fathom what he has done off the field for the disenfranchised. He spoke to the hearts and minds of so many people across the island chain, it's difficult to measure his impact. Not that the Bulldogs defense is going to give a tinker's damn about any of that when the whistle blows to begin this big-time BCS game.
They are going to come after him early and often in an attempt to break down the rhythm passing attack designed by June Jones long before Brennan ever walked the planet Earth. If Brennan is effective against a good, but not great defense, the Warriors have a chance to complete the greatest season in school history with a perfect 13-0 record.
He will need his defensive teammates to stop the vaunted running game of Georgia, led by all-everything freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno. The Warriors also face a talented sophomore quarterback in Matthew Stafford, who has big-play capability based on establishing the running game.
Jones has his own stake in this game as he tries to prove his run-and-shoot attack is still a viable offense after all these years of criticism. He is vindicated somewhat by all the spread attacks around the NFL and college, but his system still operates without a tight end. That puts pressure on the O-line to fend off the blitz packages that Brennan has faced throughout the season.
Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez has studied the playbook like a freshman preparing for final exams. He doesn't want to confuse his players by putting too many packages into the program, but he knows Hawaii has the potential to score on any play.
Not much has been made of the special teams play this week, but you can bet a kickoff or punt return for a touchdown could swing the momentum in either direction. If needed, can UH place-kicker Dan Kelly knock one through in the waning moments to pull out the win? It's the kind of game that keeps coaches up nights hoping they've given their players the best chance at success.
Regardless of what happens, it can never erase what Brennan has meant to this program since he threw his first pass against USC in 2005. This is the true Cinderella or David and Goliath story. Not until late tonight will UH fans know whether a pumpkin or a rock off Goliath's head awaits.