As the 2007 season draws to an end, it's time to take one last look back at a victorious performance by your Georgia Bulldogs, as we reexamine the 5 Things I said you'd see during last night's Sugar Bowl:
1) A Reshad Jones interception. In the end, Colt Brennan didn't even have enough time to gently throw lame ducks to the safeties. He had to settle for lobbing hurried interception grenades in the general direction of Asher Allen on the corner. Brennan acknowledged after the game that this was the fastest defense he's faced. So total was the carnage that the Hawaii signalcaller was at a loss to explain it, saying woozily "It seemed like it was crazy. I don't remember what I saw. I remember getting hit a lot."
Marcus Howard ended the game with 3 sacks, two forced fumbles, and his image seared into Hawaii tackle Keoni Steinhoff's nightmares. Steinhoff lunged, backpedaled and false started the night away as if baffled by Marcus Howard's utter brilliance. Howard joined Tra Battle, Verron Haynes, Michael Johnson and a long list of other guys who have played bigger, faster and stronger than they really were for Mark Richt when it counted most. That perhaps is the legacy that Mark Richt has built in Athens. Whereas the Donnan years were marked by All-World recruits who shrank in big games, the Richt years have been a parade of clutch performances by walk-on fullbacks, undersized safeties and defensive ends who couldn't play the run, but could run over Colt Brennan like a windshield through a horsefly.
2) Your score at the end of the first quarter: Somebody 14, Somebody Else 0. OK, I was off by 3 points. But I ask you: have two teams separated by only 11 points ever been so far apart? In my mind, the game was essentially over before it started, and I base this on two observations. One was the pregame posturing by some Hawaii players. They came out chest thumping and loud. I understand the cultural significance of the Ha'a. I also applaud the way Warriors from as far away as Mississippi and Michigan have accepted the islands' native culture.
But, somewhat ironically, the message that the Hawaii players like to say the Ha'a sends is that they are protecting what's theirs. However, Hawaii doesn't own the Superdome. Neither do we, to be perfectly fair, though we do have a rather tidy timeshare arrangement going with LSU. After witnessing Hawaii's pregame posturing and the bush league, hack job uncalled spearing penalty that knocked Mikey Henderson out of his last college game before he ever really got in, I recalled an old expression: "If your gonna pull the bull's tail, you better get ready to dodge the horns." Hawaii's best chance to pull the upset was to quietly but efficiently get into an offensive rhythm. Instead, they figuratively walked up an 800 pound bear and punched it squarely in the meat and two veg. Which is a most grisly way to go out, if you'll pardon the double entendre.
The second early sign that Hawaii was doomed was the expression on the faces of those Hawaii players not doing their pre-Dr. Feelgood Motley Crue impersonation. The guys who weren't dressed out were running onto the field while panning their video cameras up into the crowd. Colt Brennan was standing around before the kickoff grinning like a jokester who spiked the poi with wasabi extract. Meanwhile, two feet away, Thomas Brown had an expression on his face that registered with me as pure focused aggression. If I did not know Thomas Brown to be an upright and studious young man, I would have believed that he was about to take three steps, snap Brennan's neck right then and there on the carpet at the Superdome, then continue on his way to mess up Jimmy Johnson's hair and impale Thom Brenamen on a flag pole.
I really would have only blamed him for the Brennan murder, to be perfectly frank. Brenamen is a third rate color guy who who would give his left ear to get on The Sports Reporters, where he would promptly put Jason Whitlock to sleep and become the inspiration for Mitch Alba's latest book, Saturdays With Ambien. But I digress. Hawaii's players looked more like tourists than highly trained assassins on a business trip. They made mental errors and when Georgia punched, they were unable to counter. Instead they stood around looking dazed and vaguely frustrated that the other team was playing a game very different from the one to which Coach Jones' staff had accustomed them.
3) A late hit (or two) by the 'Dawgs. Two it was. Both on Darryl Gamble, who was apparently unable to temper his enthusiasm at finally being unleashed in his most significant action of the season. Luckily, neither one did serious damage either to Hawaii's players or Georgia's chances for victory. Brennan was sacked 8 times and hit at least that many more. At one point I thought Brandon Miller might have actually killed the poor kid. Heck, even Brian Mimbs displayed his nasty streak.
4) Missed tackles. At one point in the second half, the friendly Fox statisticians noted that Hawaii had missed 15 tackles to Georgia's 1. Soon thereafter, we missed 2 on a screen pass to triple our total. I would stop short of drawing a causal link between missed tackles and the outcome. While there was a definite correlation, I don't think that Hawaii would have been celebrating a victory unless the numbers spit out by the friendly network stat gnomes had been literally reversed.
Instead, I think the missed tackles by Hawaii were just another symptom of facing a bigger, faster and stronger team. Hawaii's secondary had literally no chance one on one in the open against Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno. Heck, even Kris Durham proved too physcial for the Warriors, and that kid looks like he went to the blood bank and forgot to say "when". On the flipside, Asher Allen, Dannell Ellerbe and Rennie Curran were swallowing Hawaii receivers whole.
5) UGA 41, Hawaii 24. Colt Brennan was involved in precisely one fewer touchdowns than Marcus Howard. The kid has a quick release and is scary accurate if you give him time to throw. But on this night Brennan didn't have time to do anything more than curl up in the fetal position and limp around like a yard dog beaned by the engine falling out of a 74' Ford pickup rusting away in the front yard. That line was for the very small contingent of Hawaii fans who cling to ignorant stereotypes about a dynamic and vibrant state which most of them have never visited.
The vast majority of Hawaii fans however seem like awesome folks with a love for their homegrown football that's hard to match. But on this night, Hawaii was just out of its league. There's no use trying to be politically correct about it. The game which Hawaii brought to the Superdome was not "BCS level football". It was a poor imitation thereof, and an equally poor substitute therefor. If they can hold onto June Jones (which may be difficult), things will only get better. But Hawaii ran into a buzzsaw.
For our part, things could not have gone much better. I wouldn't be surprised for us to get a couple of symbolic first place votes when the final AP poll comes out, and we should be squarely in the National Championship conversation to start the season. We'll be fielding a mature team that has really found itself over the last 7 games of the season. We say it a lot, probably last night more than fans from the Aloha State cared to hear, but it is indeed great to be a Georgia Bulldog. Until later . . .