New Challenge For Georgia Defense

Bulldogs set to face a Hawaii offense unlike any other they've seen

Dec. 28, 2007

By Adam Caparell


Adam is's football editor and national football writer.
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For a team that didn't think very much of its future following a 21-point loss the second weekend of October, Georgia did pretty well for itself.


That's because the Bulldogs will be playing in a BCS bowl game for the third time under coach Mark Richt come New Year's Day when they line up opposite Hawaii in the Sugar Bowl. And believe it or not, it's one of the last places Richt and his team thought they'd wind up after one rough afternoon in Knoxville.


"After Tennessee thumped us pretty good we weren't thinking much of anything except whether we could possibly become bowl eligible," Richt said.




Georgia did more than become bowl eligible. After the embarrassment that was their worst loss since 2003 had worn off, the Bulldogs picked themselves up off the mat and reeled off six straight wins to finish the season 10-2, good enough for fifth in the final BCS standings.


And when the bitterness that was a national championship game snub had subsided, Georgia finally began to appreciate just how far it had come. Making it to a BCS game is nothing to scoff at and the honor of the invite was only heightened upon learning who their opponent would be: undefeated Hawaii.


They may be from a non-BCS conference, they may play five time zones away and may have played the easiest schedule in the country, but it'd be a mistake to think Georgia is taking Hawaii for granted. Or that they're not excited to meet the nation's only remaining unbeaten team.   


"We're thrilled and the guys are jacked," Richt said. "And when you watch film on a team as good as Hawaii is it doesn't take long for guys to get excited about it."


It also doesn't take long to get excited about facing a Heisman Trophy finalist.


Colt Brennan comes into the Sugar Bowl as the poster boy for Hawaii football and for good reason. The senior quarterback had himself another fine season, slinging his way into more record books and now the nightmares of Georgia's defense.


Some think Brennan's nothing more than a product of June Jones' run and shoot offense and many label him a system quarterback. Richt and the Bulldogs would characterize him quite differently.  


"The guy is a great quarterback," Richt said. "Sometimes you might have a guy who throws it 60 times a game and he's going to throw for a lot of yards and touchdowns and if you do it a lot you're going to get more yards and more stats. But when you watch him the guy is pinpoint accurate and knows exactly what to do with that ball. And if he was inserted into certain teams who struggled at the quarterback position, he might have led them to a championship."


Richt thinks so highly of Brennan, in fact, that he easily believes the record breaking signal caller could easily succeed in the SEC.


Bulldogs safety Kelin Johnson would concur with his coach. He sees a little Erik Ainge in Brennan and it was Ainge who finished among the top three in nearly all the important statistical categories for quarterbacks.


The only problem is while the Bulldogs have seen plenty of Ainge, they've only seen film of Brennan and what Brennan and Hawaii brings to the table is something entirely different than what they have yet to see this season.


"We haven't faced anybody like them," Johnson said.


Aside from an early season matchup with Troy, who regularly lines up for four wide and throws it with great regularity, the Bulldogs haven't faced anything like Brennan and the Warriors.


With a trio that arguably constitutes the best set of wide outs in the country - Brennan's three leading wide outs each had over 1,000 yards receiving this year - the penchant for quick, precise passes mixed in with the threat of the home run makes Hawaii a very tough team to defend.


That's why there isn't a hint of smugness to be found among the Bullodgs. Hawaii may have played the easiest schedule in the country and may have won the league title in a less than great non-BCS conference, but that certainly doesn't mean they're not good or extremely dangerous.


"There won't be complacency. When you turn the film on and watch them, our guys are smart enough to know when they see a good football team," Richt said. "It's undeniable when you watch the film so there will be no complacency."


Especially after last year's Fiesta Bowl saw Boise State pull off the impossible.


"We know what happened," Johnson said.


So in order to make sure history doesn't repeat itself, the Bulldogs are going to have to get to Brennan and get to him often. It would be prudent for the Warriors to establish some semblance of a running game to take some pressure off Brennan, but that's easier said than done against a solid Georgia run defense. Then again, so is keeping Brennan in check.


"You see a guy with a lot of poise and a lot of time. He has all the time in the world," Johnson said. "He's combing his hair, he's brushing his teeth, looking in the mirror. He's picking defenses apart. And that says a lot about his O-line."


"They're resilient," Richt said. "They will not panic. They will not quit. I've seen them down and almost out and come back and win. I don't know how many times they did that."


Hawaii did it enough to stay undefeated and enough to prove they're deserving of a BCS berth. Georgia, on the other hand, didn't think the Sugar Bowl was a possibility two months ago. Then when the calendar turned to December they found themselves in the best place they could realistically expect to be.


So they're saying all the right things, promising everyone they're not taking Hawaii and Colt Brennan for granted. Because if what Georgia has seen on film is what they actually get in the game, the Bulldogs are going to have their hands full.