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Will Georgia Be Able to Run the Ball Against Hawaii's Defense?

You already know that the Hawaii Warriors are a solid team on offense. It may surprise you to learn, however, that June Jones's squad also acquits itself fairly well defensively.

For instance, Georgia's Sugar Bowl opponent ranks second in the W.A.C. in rushing defense, permitting 131.7 yards per game on the ground. The Bulldogs and the Warriors each allow 3.4 yards per carry.

This does not mean, however, that the Red and Black should be fearful of Hawaii's ability to stop the run. According to College Football Statistics, the Warriors' first eight games were against a pair of Division I-AA squads and the teams ranked 51st (Idaho), 55th (Louisiana Tech), 75th (U.N.L.V.), 94th (Utah State), 109th (New Mexico State), and 112th (San Jose State) in rushing offense. When two-thirds of your opponents can't crack the top 50 in the country at running the ball, it's really easy to put up good numbers against the run.

I think we all know where this is leading.

The last four weeks have told a different tale, however. Fresno State, for instance, ranks 16th in rushing offense, and, despite trailing 31-7 in the second quarter in Honolulu, the West Coast Bulldogs still managed to gain 182 yards on 44 carries for an average of 4.1 yards per rush against the Warriors. F.S.U.'s Clifton Smith gained 105 yards on 17 touches.

The following week, in Reno, Hawaii faced a Nevada squad ranked 11th in rushing offense. The Wolf Pack racked up 216 yards on 48 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per rush. Nevada's Luke Lippincott ran the ball 25 times, tallying 140 yards in the process.

Next up for the Warriors were the Broncos. Boise State is the nation's 29th-best rushing team and the visitors from the Gem State outgained Hawaii on the ground as Jeremy Avery averaged 5.0 yards per carry and Ian Johnson broke a 50-yard run on the Warrior D.

I'm starting to sense a pattern here.

Finally, and most recently, Georgia's Sugar Bowl opponent squared off with the country's 17th-ranked rushing offense, that fielded by Washington. The Huskies torched the Warriors, running the ball 50 times for 261 yards. U-Dub averaged 5.2 yards per carry and Louis Rankin carried the ball 21 times for 145 yards.

These results are far from aberrational. The last time Hawaii visited the Pelican State, to face another Bulldog squad in Ruston on September 8, Derek Dooley's Louisiana Tech squad rushed for 223 yards against the Warriors. On another of U.H.'s treks to the mainland this autumn, the outright W.A.C. champion gave up 4.8 yards per carry and 143 rushing yards to U.N.L.V. despite leaping out to a 42-7 lead on the Runnin' Rebels.

The lesson of those figures is clear: Hawaii is effective against the run only when facing teams that don't run the ball well. Georgia ranks 36th in the N.C.A.A. in rushing offense and boasts a thousand-yard rusher in Knowshon Moreno. Because Hawaii is capable of scoring quickly, one of the most effective weapons in the Bulldogs' offensive arsenal will be the ability to grind it out with the ground game, controlling the clock, keeping Colt Brennan on the sideline, and letting Georgia's talented tailbacks lead the Classic City Canines on long marches to the end zone.

Go 'Dawgs!