December 27, 2007

Best defense could be a good offense for Bulldogs

NEW ORLEANS - Much has been made of Hawaii's potent Run-and-Shoot offense and what the Bulldogs must do to try and contain Warrior quarterback Colt Brennan.

But the way Georgia coach Mark Richt sees it, his offense may actually hold the key.

"Right now, I think we are very sound in what we do; as is Hawaii. People ask me about systems all the time but to me as long as you are focused and centered on what you do, you are going to have success moving the football," Richt said. "That's what we want to do. The more our offense can move the football and keep their offense off the field, the better off we'll be."

As you might expect, look for the Warriors to receive a heavy dose of Knowshon Moreno (239 carries, 1,273 yards, 12 TDs) and Thomas Brown (129-706-9) as the Bulldogs (10-2) will look to establish the run, just like they have in all 12 games this year.

Hawaii coach June Jones expects nothing less.

"I am sure they will look to do that, and they aren't very smart if they don't try to do that," Jones said. "They have a Barry Sanders-type running back and he is only 18 years old. He isn't any longer a freshman. He is 13 games in now and now a veteran. You watch him block on passes and he can take the ball and physically hurt people, or he can make a move and take it to the house. (Moreno) has it all."

But the Warriors will do well not to forget about quarterback Matthew Stafford.

The sophomore may not have received the same acclaim as Brennan, who finished third in the Heisman Trophy balloting. But his comfort level running Georgia's offense has grown throughout the year and Stafford responded by completing 180 of 325 passes for 2,348 yards and 18 touchdowns.

"I wouldn't be surprised to see our passing statistics go up the next couple of years," Richt said. "Last season we had a true freshman quarterback (Stafford) and it is very difficult to be slinging the ball around when you have someone who is not ready for that.

"Now, (Stafford) is more mature, our receivers have matured and our young offensive line will get better at pass protection. My guess is that our passing statistics will rise. But the bottom line is that as coaches we need to find a way to win. Our best playmakers have been our running backs the last couple of years. My guess is that you will see a good balance in our offense."

Jones conceded his Warriors (12-0) probably won't be able to slow Georgia down. If not, Hawaii's game-plan becomes much simpler - outscore the Bulldogs anyway you can.

"If we were to line up in the I-formation their speed and power would overwhelm us," Jones said. "But because of what we do offensively and Colt's quick release we have a chance. That's what it's going to take. Like I said, they will make some plays against us and we will make some against them. Hopefully, we can make one more than them."

Trying to simulate Hawaii's offense in practice hasn't been easy for the Bulldogs to do.

Freshman quarterback Logan Gray has played the role of Brennan, who has thrown for 4,174 yards and 38 touchdowns.

"You can't duplicate it. You can try to line up with the same sets and try to run the same routes, but it is very difficult to run it with the same precision as they run it and the same precision as (Brennan) throws the ball," Richt said. "Plus, they have different paces. You can only hope to show the basic formation and routes that they have."

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