SUGAR BOWL: GEORGIA VS. HAWAII
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii receiver Jason Rivers was knocked to the turf by linebacker Dannell Ellerbe and Georgia safety Reshad Jones last night.
Georgia ‘D’ paints Hawaii black and blue
NEW ORLEANS » Georgia linebacker Dannell Ellerbe took his helmet off and knelt on the field as if in prayer.
The Hawaii receiver he had just drilled appeared to be out cold.
Warriors wideout Jason Rivers eventually sat up. He even got back into the Sugar Bowl. But there wasn't much Rivers or the rest of his teammates on Hawaii's normally high-flying offense could do against the Bulldogs last night.
Indeed, Georgia's decision to wear a more intimidating black jersey instead of its traditional red seemed most appropriate when the Bulldogs' defense was on the field. They swarmed to the ball like merciless marauders, turning Hawaii's once joyous first bid to the Sugar Bowl into a nightmare.
"We looked at the games we played really well this year, and it was when we played faster and more physical than our opponents," Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez said. "We had to be able to run to the ball and get there as fast as we can and try and punish the ball carrier and see how long they'll play with us playing fast and hard and physical."
Heisman Trophy finalist Colt Brennan was sacked more times in the first half (five) than in any game this season. Defensive end Marcus Howard jarred the ball from Brennan's grasp twice in the first three quarters, the second hit leaving Brennan flat on his back while Howard then fell on the loose ball in the end zone for a touchdown in a 41-10 romp.
"Full speed, I had a clear shot at him," game MVP Howard said. "I beat the tackle inside and that's probably my favorite sack I ever had."
RICHARD WALKER / RWALKER@STARBULLETIN.COM
Hawaii receiver Jason Rivers was motionless on the field after being hit by Georgia's Dannell Ellerbe last night. Rivers was shaken up, but returned to the game.
Georgia's eighth sack literally brought Brennan to his knees, where he remained for about 10 seconds, his head bowed against the turf, before trainers helped him up and led him off the field with just over 13 minutes remaining in the game.
"Before the game started I was saying he was going to be the best quarterback we faced, but we hit him pretty bad," Howard said. "I don't think he had a chance to show what type of quarterback he was."
Brennan was replaced by Tyler Graunke, who threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Grice-Mullins.
Eight sacks were the most the Bulldogs had ever racked up in a bowl, and Brennan could only wish those were the only plays in which he took a heavy hit.
The Bulldogs were clearly gunning for him. Brennan was leveled after a last-second option pitch and on several other throws that he narrowly released before his protection collapsed.
"Coach Martinez said, 'Hit Colt Brennan,' " Howard said. "He made it a big priority. He said, 'If he runs the option, don't peel off, just hit him. If he passes the ball, as long as it's legal, hit him.' That's what we did."
The Dawgs' defensive backs had a pretty good day, too.
Asher Allen had two picks and Prince Miller and Ellerbe each had one.
When taken in the context of its 12-0 regular season, the numbers Hawaii managed to put up against Georgia were downright dismal.
Coming into their Bowl Championship Series debut, Hawaii had averaged 529.2 yards and 45 points per game. That was against a schedule made up primarily of their Western Athletic Conference rivals.
Against Southeastern Conference powerhouse Georgia, Hawaii finished with 306 total yards and turned the ball over six times. It was the first time Brennan had been held without a TD pass when he played more than a few plays.
For most of the game, it seemed the only completions Georgia permitted were short passes underneath in long-yardage situations. Then, it was up to Hawaii's receivers to make substantial gains after the catch. They couldn't.
As Georgia's defenders hopped up in triumph from one ferocious tackle after another, the Georgia band immersed the Louisiana Superdome in a fitting tune: "Paint It Black" by the Rolling Stones.