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Post On second thought…

Wednesday January 2, 2008

It wasn’t a great night for the conventional wisdom. I’d like to claim that I saw all of this coming, but of course I can’t and won’t. I probably thought most of these points myself. Instead, here is a healthy dose of hindsight as we look at some of the widely-accepted pregame analysis leading up to the Sugar Bowl.

Quick passes from the run-and-shoot offense neutralize pressure.

When Colt Brennan spoke with Tim Tebow about the Georgia defense, hopefully Tebow was able to offer his unique perspective on taking a sack from the Bulldogs. Brennan’s quick instincts and strong arm might have saved him from eating through a straw for a few months. Georgia’s pressure on Brennan was relentless, and their eight sacks only begin to tell the story of the harassment. The pressure also affected Brennan’s famed accuracy, and Georgia’s defensive backs made Brennan pay for forced passes. "We wanted to make Colt throw it faster than he wanted to," explained Mark Richt after the game, and the Bulldog defense executed that plan to perfection.

Georgia will run, run, run and control the time of possession to keep Brennan off the field.

Can you believe that Hawaii won the meaningless time of possession battle? Georgia’s running game was adequate but nowhere near spectacular. Knowshon Moreno and Thomas Brown didn’t run roughshod through the defense, and the Dawgs were generally ineffective at salting the game away on the ground in the final quarter. Moreno and Brown were able to find some early holes, and Moreno added two early touchdowns.

In a game in which the Georgia running game was expected to be showcased, the Bulldogs were held below their season average with 169 total rushing yards. Thomas Brown’s game-high 71 yards on 19 carries led the way, and an injured Knowshon Moreno didn’t break ten carries (though he sure made his few carries count). After some long gains in Georgia’s final few games of the regular season, the Bulldogs had no carries for over 20 yards in the Sugar Bowl.

You just have to accept that Brennan will get his.

Many people, myself included, had already penciled in 3-400 yards passing and around 28 points for the potent Hawaii offense. The big question would be Georgia’s ability to clamp down in the red zone and keep Brennan from turning his prodigious yardage into enough points to win.

We badly underestimated the Georgia defense. Brennan had just 169 yards passing. His replacement Tyler Graunke did most of the damage with 142 yards and one touchdown through the air in just one quarter.

Georgia, snubbed by the BCS, would lack motivation.

This one had been shot out of the water several weeks ago, but some still focused on the buildup to the game and its importance to Hawaii. You couldn’t be certain until the game started, but both the Georgia crowd and team were ready from the opening kickoff. Any disappointment about the national title game was taken out on the opponent.

To be fair, not all of the analysis missed the mark. One point in particular nailed it.

Limiting Hawaii’s yardage after catch is critical to controlling their offense.

This key to the game was dead-on. Georgia did a masterful job at preventing Hawaii’s short passes from turning into big plays. FOX’s stat tracker showed only one broken tackle for most of the night. When Georgia was able to get the Warriors into long-yardage situations on second and third down (which was often), Hawaii found it very difficult to get the large gains they needed to move the chains. This stat, combined with Georgia’s effective pressure, probably was the story of the game.

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