SUGAR BOWL: GEORGIA VS. HAWAII
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Georgia tailback Knowshon Moreno ran past Hawaii linebacker Solomon Elimimian on his way to a TD in the first quarter of yesterday's Sugar Bowl.
Wake-up call ends BCS dream
Howard's three sacks lead the Bulldogs to an overwhelming Sugar Bowl victory
NEW ORLEANS » It's one thing to reach the next level. It's another to compete there.
Hawaii, previously the only undefeated team in major college football, fell and fell hard in the Sugar Bowl, 41-10, to an inspired Georgia team last night at the Louisiana Superdome. A sellout crowd of 74,383 and millions of viewers nationally saw 10th-ranked Hawaii (12-1) get overwhelmed by a team that didn't make its conference championship game.
"We played hard. It was just unfortunate that we were a little rattled from the get-go," said UH coach June Jones, who was in tears after the game. "We didn't play our kind of game that we could play. But they're a good football team and they kinda make you do some things that you don't normally do."
The fourth-ranked Bulldogs (11-2) grabbed momentum early and held onto it, sacking Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan eight times, the most the Hawaii signal-caller has been sacked at UH. Brennan was also intercepted three times and lost two fumbles, as UH turned the ball over six times.
Most Outstanding Player Marcus Howard led Georgia with three sacks, including one for a forced fumble and touchdown in the third quarter that probably sealed the win. He also deflected a pass that turned into an interception.
Colt Brennan left the game early in the fourth quarter with the outcome decided after Howard's third sack, which caused him concussion symptoms for the second time this season. Brennan also bruised his right (throwing) hand on a Georgia player's helmet when Howard sacked him into the end zone.
Brennan completed 22 of 38 passes for 169 yards and no touchdowns. It was the first time in the Heisman Trophy finalist's UH career that he did not have a touchdown pass in a game he started. It is also his low yards for a start.
"Pretty disappointing," Brennan said. "We really wanted to do something special here tonight, but we weren't able to get it going."
UH had trouble dealing with the noise in the Superdome, and Georgia took advantage of the Warriors' silent count.
"They were jumping the count," right tackle Keoni Steinhoff said. "We were both watching the ball and they jumped. It was just their speed, they were off the ball faster."
Many of the sacks were also aided by excellent coverage of the UH receivers by Georgia's secondary. When Brennan did complete passes, the Dawgs were successful in keeping the UH receivers from making long gains.
"We wanted to force Colt Brennan to throw it faster than he wanted to," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "We really didn't think we would get that many sacks, but we thought we could make him have to throw the ball quickly. We had to limit their receivers after the catch also. Our guys tackled extremely well."
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Georgia receiver Sean Bailey caught this touchdown pass while being defended by Hawaii cornerback Myron Newberry.
Colt Brennan took a moment to catch his breath after taking one of his eight sacks as Georgia cornerback Asher Allen looked on in the first half. Allen had two interceptions.
Jason Rivers' 21-yard reception in the third quarter was the Warriors' longest play from scrimmage.
Georgia controlled both lines of scrimmage, and running backs Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno rarely went down on first contact.
Brown rushed for 73 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries and Moreno, playing with a sprained ankle, got 61 on nine carries and two touchdowns.
UH scored its only touchdown with 10:32 left, as backup Tyler Graunke hit Ryan Grice-Mullins in the end zone for a 16-yard TD, capping a nine-play, 65-yard drive that took 4 minutes.
But it was much too late for the Warriors.
UGA dominated the first half, sacking Brennan five times and outgaining Hawaii 214 yards to 125 while building a 24-3 lead.
For the third game in a row, the Warriors fell behind -- and this time, they stayed there.
It started shaky for UH and didn't get better.
Two penalties -- delay of game and a false start by Steinhoff -- negated good field position from a 36-yard return of the opening kickoff by Malcolm Lane.
Keenan Jones appeared to be blocked into the return man on the ensuing punt by Kelin Johnson, but was called for a 15-yard penalty.
Georgia then went 61 yards on nine plays, starting it with two quick passes and ending it with a 17-yard run by Moreno. UGA led 7-0 at 9:42 of the first quarter.
UH closed to 7-3 on Dan Kelly's 41-yard field goal, capping an 11-play drive. Rivers caught two passes for 20 yards and drew an interference call on cornerback Asher Allen, but also hurt the Warriors with penalties for holding and unsportsmanlike conduct.
UGA extended its lead to 14-3 at 0:57 of the first quarter on Moreno's second touchdown, an 11-yard run to the right side. The 65-yard drive was sustained by a 13-yard pass from Stafford to Moreno on third and 9 at the Hawaii 24 that went for 13 yards and a first down.
Brennan was sacked for eight yards back to the Hawaii 12 by Howard, and UH punted.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii defensive back Keenan Jones collided with Georgia split end Mikey Henderson in the first half.
JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii running back Leon Wright-Jackson (4) and punter Britton Forester saluted the crowd after the game.
Georgia settled for Brandon Coutu's 52-yard field goal at 9:36 of the second quarter. The Dawgs faced second and 25 at the UH 49, but a 13-yard pass to Moreno put UGA in Coutu's range.
Prince Miller, in front of Grice-Mullins, intercepted Brennan's pass on the first play of the next possession, and Georgia set up shop at the Hawaii 42.
On third and 7, Stafford hit Kris Durham across the middle with UH in a blitz. Durham cut back to the outside, where Amani Purcell stripped him of the ball, but the fumble went out of bounds and Georgia retained possession at the UH 11.
Stafford then immediately lofted a touchdown pass to Sean Bailey into the left corner of the end zone over UH cornerback Myron Newberry. Georgia led 24-3 with 8 minutes left in the first half.
Rivers caught a pass from Brennan, but was knocked hard by Georgia linebacker Dannell Ellerbe. Rivers was motionless on the turf for several long seconds. After about 5 minutes, Brennan helped him up and Rivers walked off the field under his own power.
Three plays later, Howard sacked Brennan again and forced a fumble recovered by defensive end Brandon Miller.
Allen intercepted Brennan's second pass of the third quarter, but Jake Patek came back with a pick of a Stafford pass tipped by Adam Leonard.
UH didn't get its first third-down conversion until less than 10 minutes remained in the third quarter, as Brennan hit C.J. Hawthorne for a 7-yard gain.
But three plays later, Howard crushed Brennan, forcing him to fumble in the end zone. Howard recovered the ball, and Georgia led 31-3 with 8:57 to go in the quarter.
UH benefited from a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer against Darryl Gamble, and Hawaii held on to the ball for 13 plays and drove to the Georgia 38. But Howard deflected a pass, and Ellerbe intercepted.
Georgia fans chanted "overrated" after a 16-yard pass from Stafford to Mohamed Massaquoi put the ball on the UH 1. Two plays later, Brown dived into the end zone and Georgia's lead became 38-3.
Brennan apparently hit Hawthorne for an 11-yard first down to put the ball at the Georgia 34, but a UGA-requested review of the play overturned it, and the Dawgs got the ball back on downs.
Coutu kicked a 45-yard field goal, pumping the lead up to 41-3 with 14:32 left in the game.