January 2, 2008

Bulldogs lasso Colt

NEW ORLEANS - Georgia's Sugar Bowl win over Hawaii may not have earned the Bulldogs a national championship for 2007, but if great defenses are indeed the main ingredient, a title may not be too far behind.

With MVP Marcus Howard spear-heading the attack, the Bulldogs got after Warriors quarterback Colt Brennan early and often, producing a Sugar Bowl record eight sacks, while limiting the record-setting passer to just 169 yards in Georgia's 41-10 victory.

"We wanted to force Colt to throw the ball a little quicker than he wanted to," said Georgia head coach Mark Richt. "We really didn't think we'd get that many sacks, to be honest with you. We thought we could force him to throw a little quicker, and we knew when he completed balls, we had to get no yards after the catch."

The Bulldogs forced six turnovers, and victimized Brennan for three interceptions.

"We dropped eight guys at times, and I guess the two-deep fire zone, and a little bit of man…very little, and then getting pressure with the d-linemen was key when we did bring pressure," said Georgia defensive coordinator Willie Martinez.

Georgia's defensive attack limited Brennan to one of his least productive outings of the season. The only other game in which the notorious gunslinger failed to produce a 200-yard passing effort was against Nevada. Brennan played just two snaps in that game, throwing for a mere 21 yards.

The Georgia defense put Hawaii in uncharted waters early, holding the Warriors without a first-half touchdown for the first time since the 2006 Hawaii Bowl. Georgia's'24-3 halftime lead also gave Hawaii its largest halftime deficit this season, as the Warriors trailed only twice all year.

Hawaii's first successful third-down conversion didn't even come until 9:10 of the third quarter. However, that modest achievement proved to be moot after Howard sacked Brennan moments later for the fumble recovery and touchdown that increased Georgia's lead to 31-3 at that point.

"We came out with a winning attitude and the goal was to put pressure on him (Brennan) and our coaches said if we could do that, we would have a good chance to win this game," said Howard. "We just came to play."

Rennie Curran started the evening's sack parade, taking down Brennan on Hawaii's second series, as the Warriors settled for a field goal. The first of Howard's Sugar Bowl record three sacks was next, coming on the final play of the first quarter.

The first Bulldog theft of the night belonged to Prince Miller. The sophomore cornerback picked off his first career pass, a break that set up Matthew Stafford's touchdown pass to Sean Bailey for the third Georgia touchdown of the night.

With just under seven and a half minutes in the opening half, Howard got to Brennan again, forcing a fumble that Brandon Miller recovered. Brennan went to the turf twice more before the half ended, courtesy of Curran and Brandon Miller.

Georgia's first defensive stand of the second half featured a sack by Roderick Battle, followed by the first of two interceptions by Asher Allen. Howard's sack and subsequent fumble recovery for a touchdown followed soon after. It was one of two forced fumbles on the night for Howard.

Danell Ellerbe's interception off a tipped ball late in the third quarter led to Thomas Brown's one-yard touchdown at the 1:40 mark for a 38-3 lead.

Geno Atkins, who drew jibes from his teammates just days earlier by posing for a picture with Brennan on Bourbon Street, re-introduced himself to the Warriors' signal-caller early in the fourth period. Atkins' hit sent Brennan to the sideline, where the quarterback stayed the remainder of the game.

Bulldog players afterward underscored the significance of what they felt was a statement victory.

"We felt like we haven't gotten as much respect in the media nationally and we felt we had something to prove," said Curran. "It didn't matter who we played tonight, we were going to come out and play hard."

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