Tuesday’s Sugar Bowl between the University of Hawaii Warriors and the Georgia Bulldogs was far and away the most painful sporting event I’ve ever had to endure. I flew down to New Orleans to cheer for the Warriors as they played in the final game of a previously undefeated season; a season during which they had shattered all manner of UH records, a number of WAC passing records, and more than a couple NCAA scoring records. Hawaii did everything right during the regular season but everything went horribly wrong for them in the Sugar Bowl.
Before I get all depressing and actually describe the game I want to first say that the New Orleans Superdome was incredible. The acoustics were deafening, the seating area was huge, and my family had an excellent position1/3 of the way up the stadium seating around the 40-yard line. The food was way overpriced, but that’s a given at any sporting event. In the stadium’s bright lights I had a difficult time envisioning thousands of hurricane survivors seeking shelter there, but I still had the dubious opportunity to witness another type of disaster: Hawaii’s complete and utter destruction at the merciless paws of the Georgia Bulldogs.
Hawaii won the coin toss and chose to receive the ball as they’ve done at every opportunity during coach June Jones’ tenure. But instead of airing the ball out in a deceptive mixture of short and medium routes as they’ve done with success for the past several seasons, Colt Brennan and the UH offense couldn’t get the ball into air and instead kept moving the line of scrimmage in the wrong direction – backwards. To Georgia’s credit, they rarely blitzed but their four-man rush routinely overwhelmed Hawaii’s frontline and Brennan was sacked close to ten times in barely three quarters of work and that’s not even counting the numerous hits and take-downs he took after getting rid of the ball. Hawaii’s prolific offense has always depended on timing and rhythm and both were in short supply against Georgia’s linemen who frequently ran untouched into the UH backfield. The few times Brennan got the ball out ahead of the rush he under threw receivers and misplayed routes. I think part of his inaccuracy could also be attributed to the thunderous noise the Bulldog fans generated on every down. Even in the stands I could barely hear my neighbors talk.
By halftime Hawaii was losing 23-3 and it just got worse. Hawaii made a couple of comebacks this season, the most memorable perhaps being the last regular season’s game against Washington in which they rallied from an early 21 point deficit to win 35-28. But Georgia was too big, too fast, and too merciless to let Hawaii get back into this one.
Perhaps no play signified the Warrior’s complete dismantling as Brennan’s fumble in the third quarter. Still trailing 23-3 at the time, I and other UH fans still had some hope that the Warriors could put some points on the board and make a game out of the contest. After getting receiving the ball deep in Warrior territory, Brennan took the snap and immediately coughed up the ball when a UGA linemen slammed him into the ground at the 3 yard line and recovered the ball in the end zone. Georgia fans went crazy at the score, barking and hooting like wild beasts with a taste for human flesh and there was absolutely nothing to say back to them.
To make matters worse, UGA opened up their playbook in the third and fourth quarters after victory was all but guaranteed. Georgia had previously relied upon thei running game to move the ball -- which they had been doing very well -- but by the third quarter and up by more than four touchdowns Georgia inexplicably began throwing the ball – even on first downs. It was a disgusting display but my family and I stayed to the end.
On the way out, Hawaii fans were somber. We had witnessed some respectful wishes for a good competition leading up to kickoff, but most Georgia fans were overbearing, overweight, and reeking of arrogance. It smarted like a kick to the gonads to walk back to the hotel room in a barking sea of black, orange, and red-necks.
The good thing about being upset in New Orleans is that it’s really easy to find some good food and alcohol.
Oh yeah, Happy New Year.