Commentary

Instant analysis: Sugar Bowl (Hawaii vs. Georgia)

Originally Published: January 1, 2008
By Chris Low | ESPN.com

NEW ORLEANS -- Here's a look at how Georgia blitzed Hawaii 41-10 in the Allstate Sugar Bowl:

FINAL ANALYSIS

How the game was won: It's called speed, size, more speed and athleticism. At the sake of oversimplifying things, Georgia's defense -- with its SEC-tested blend of size and speed -- overwhelmed Hawaii's offense and Colt Brennan, who was sacked eight times and knocked down countless other times. The Georgia defenders were on top of Brennan as soon as he got the shotgun snap, and he never had a chance to find open receivers. Even the Warriors' quick passing game was ineffective because the Bulldogs' linebackers and defensive backs had the speed to recover and make the tackle for minimal gains.

Player of the game: Georgia senior defensive end Marcus Howard was a beast and personified the Bulldogs' defensive dominance in this game. He sacked Brennan three times, one of those resulting in a fumble he recovered himself for a touchdown to make it a 31-3 game midway through the third quarter. He also had another forced fumble in the game.

Stat of the game: The Bulldogs had a season-high eight sacks, which also tied their bowl record for sacks in a game. In their last six games, the Bulldogs racked up 30 sacks. Their 42 sacks led the SEC this season.

Questions answered:
• Is Hawaii ready for primetime? No, at least not against an SEC heavyweight. The Warriors had a great season and were a lot of fun to watch play. But physically, they simply couldn't match up with the Bulldogs.

• How equipped was Georgia's secondary, which had looked vulnerable at times this season, to deal with Hawaii's passing game? The Bulldogs' defensive backs played well, were in the right spots and were opportunistic with four interceptions. But the real story was Georgia's pass-rush, which made life miserable for Brennan.

• How good is freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno? He didn't start because Georgia coach Mark Richt said Thomas Brown practiced better. Nothing against Brown, who's a good player, but Moreno has a chance to be one of the best to come out of the SEC in a long time.

What's next for each team:
Georgia: Let the national championship talk begin. You're sure to hear plenty of it coming out of Athens, Ga., during the offseason. With at least eight starters on each side of the ball set to come back, the Bulldogs are sure to start the 2008 season in the top 5. They would seem to have all the pieces in place to make a real run at the title.

Hawaii: The Warriors will face life without the record-setting Brennan next season. He's been nothing short of a rock star on the Hawaiian islands the last couple of years and helped elevate the program to unprecedented heights. His success should help the Warriors recruit. It doesn't get any easier for them, though, as they open the 2008 season at Florida.

FIRST-HALF ANALYSIS

Turning point: It wasn't quite the coin toss, but it was close. Hawaii, looking rattled from the outset, had successive pre-snap penalties to start the game, then two straight Brennan incompletions with Georgia defenders in his face. A third-down pass was short of the first-down marker. The Rainbows had to punt, and after another 15-yard penalty on the Warriors for hitting the return man too early, the Bulldogs promptly streaked 61 yards for a touchdown -- and the rout was on.

Best call: After Hawaii pulled within 7-3 on Dan Kelly's 41-yard field goal, Georgia's second possession of the game resulted in a 65-yard touchdown drive. Included was a perfectly executed third-and-9 screen to Moreno, who sort of hid inside, then broke a few tackles on his way to a 13-yard gain to the 11. On the next play, Moreno romped in for a touchdown and the 14-3 lead.

Best player in the half: Brennan never had a chance against Georgia's unrelenting pressure in the first half and was sacked five times. Howard had two of those sacks. Brennan also was hurried eight times and was knocked down repeatedly by the likes of Howard & Co.

Three things Hawaii needs to do:
1. Win more battles up front defensively. With only a few exceptions, Georgia's running backs have had gaping holes to run through. Georgia quarterback Matthew Stafford also hasn't had to deal with much pressure.

2. Build some confidence early. The best way to do that is to get a stop defensively coming out of the break, then put some points on the board with that first offensive possession.

3. Protect Brennan. The Warriors don't have a prayer unless they can give Brennan some time. So far, he's either running for his life or trying to throw from his back. Finding something to slow the Bulldogs' pass rush is a must.

Three things Georgia needs to do:
1. Avoid turnovers. Even with Hawaii's explosive offense, quick scores and short fields appear to be the only way the Warriors are going to get back into this game.

2. Keep the football. Look for a lot of Brown and Moreno on the ground in the second half. The Bulldogs would love nothing more than to run the clock and put together some long drives, thus keeping Hawaii's offense off the field.

3. Keep attacking on defense. Even with a big lead, it's no time to get conservative and quit coming after Brennan. Keep him off balance and don't give the Warriors any reason to believe they have a chance to climb back into this game.

Chris Low is a college football writer for ESPN.com. Send your questions and comments to Chris at espnclow@aol.com.

Chris Low | email

College Football

ALSO SEE