I hope all of you had a merry Christmas. Unlike that slacker Orson Swindle, we here at Dawg Sports have remained on the job throughout the holidays, as has fellow Bulldog blogger Doug Gillett, whose Hawaii preview is available for your perusal. (At last report, my interview with NBC Sports was not yet up on the web, but it should be airing in the network's college football "bowlnanza" section soon, so keep an eye out for it.)
We have looked at all facets of the passing game and examined how Georgia stacks up against Hawaii in the running game. Consequently, our attention now turns to the Warriors' ability, vel non, to run the ball against the 'Dawgs.
Gauging this ability is difficult to do. If "rushing offense" was a college course, the Warriors would have an incomplete. The Aloha State Adventurers rank last in the nine-team Western Athletic Conference and 113th in the country in rushing offense, eking out just over 79 yards per game on the ground. Due partly to the fact that Hawaii leads its league in first downs attained by way of the forward pass (252), June Jones's squad has gained the W.A.C.'s fewest first downs on running plays (53).
The Warriors' 261 rush attempts in 2007 are the fewest in the conference. In fact, Hawaii could have run the ball 108 more times, and the islanders still would have had the league's fewest rushing attempts. A U.H. ground game that has garnered 3.6 yards per carry and scored 16 rushing touchdowns in twelve games will go up against a Bulldog defense that has allowed 3.4 yards per carry and surrendered 16 rushing touchdowns in twelve games.
Overall, the 'Dawgs rank fourth in the S.E.C. and 28th nationally against the run, giving up 119.5 rushing yards per game. The Warriors have faced only one team that is statistically superior to the Red and Black when it comes to stopping the run---Boise State, which came into the postseason ranked 24th in rush defense---and, against the Broncos, Hawaii ran the ball 24 times for 79 yards.
To be fair, the Warriors' lack of production in the running game most likely is attributable not to an inability to execute that phase of the game, but instead to a lack of interest in trying. When defending the use of the Run and Shoot, Coach B offered this as his leading reason for preferring the offense: "The formation tells the defense to stop the pass. As a result you get great running out of the offense." This simply is not a priority for June Jones in his version of the Run and Shoot, although there are strong arguments for following Alabama's lead from the 1993 Sugar Bowl against Miami (Florida) and using the front four more than the secondary to stop Hawaii.
Georgia, of course, has fared rather well even against teams that run the ball effectively. Oklahoma State, Georgia Tech, Florida, and Troy rank seventh, 18th, 26th, and 35th, respectively, in the N.C.A.A. in rushing offense, yet the Classic City Canines held those teams, in turn, to 2.1, 3.5, 3.1, and 3.6 yards per carry, with none of the four tallying more than 136 rushing yards against the 'Dawgs.
The only ominous aspect of that trend, however, is the fact that Georgia faced two teams that ran the ball for as few yards as Hawaii, yet both of them performed better than expected in their games with the Red and Black. Ole Miss, which ranks 83rd in rushing offense, managed 158 yards on 33 carries in Sanford Stadium, whereas South Carolina, the nation's 101st-ranked running team, tallied 140 yards on 34 carries between the hedges.
Frankly, I only bothered to report on the Warrior ground game for the sake of thoroughness. June Jones has no desire to run the ball on the Bulldogs---Hawaii has not rushed the ball as many as 30 times in a game as a team all season long---but, if the islanders are sufficiently successful through the air that they are able to move the ball effectively on the ground, it will be a long night for the Red and Black.
In the Run and Shoot, the running back is a blocker who catches passes out of the backfield and Colt Brennan's league-leading 4,239 yards of total offense were generated in the following proportions: 98.5 per cent with his arm (4,174 passing yards) and 1.5 per cent with his legs (65 rushing yards). The Aloha State Adventurers do all of their traveling through the air, off the field and on it, and, if the Classic City Canines get into the backfield and get after the quarterback, the running game will become as much of an afterthought for Georgia as it is for Hawaii.
In our next installment, we will take a look at various odds and ends regarding the Bulldogs' Sugar Bowl matchup as we proceed in stages to provide you with . . . Too Much Information.