12 years ago, Georgia football embarrassed much of college football media with its blowout win over media darling Hawaii in the 2008 Sugar Bowl.
The late Georgia football superfan Lewis Grizzard mocked the drinking of wine coolers and fruity drinks instead of beer, but he might have enjoyed this Peach Pineapple Punch.
This was the first Sugar Bowl I attended since the 1983 loss to Penn State, so I was fraught with apprehension. The whole Georgia football world was somewhat fraught with apprehension.
Hawaii came in undefeated, but Boise State was the only ranked team they played. Georgia football looked like the better team on paper, but it had lost to South Carolina, got clocked by Tennessee and won a shootout with Troy by only 10 points.
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Still, rankings reflected the strength of schedules. Georgia came in at No. 4 and Hawaii at No. 10. The big question was, “Which Dawgs will show up?”
Plus the Warriors had that Māori haka dance pre-game ritual that had caught fire all season to intimidate opponents and endeared fans across America. Could Georgia football let such a thing get in its players’ heads?
Beyond die-hard SEC loyalists and the entire state of Georgia, save a few nerdy neighborhoods surrounding North Avenue, most fans in the United States probably wanted to see Hawaii to win this thing.
I will say Hawaii fans were incredibly friendly. They do not get to major bowl games often, many were visiting New Orleans for the first time in their lives and they came a huge distance at great expense to be there. We wished them well before the game, and they reciprocated.
But when it came to game time, butterflies prevailed, at least for this fan. I needed a bowl of Mercedes-Benz Superdome jambalaya to calm my stomach. Yes, in New Orleans even stadium Cajun food is dang good. If I said “excellent” several Coonass gourmet and gourmand friends living in both Louisiana and Georgia would come looking for me. They still might after only writing “dang good”.
If the Georgia football players had butterflies, we soon found out those butterflies had likely been on the team buffet for weeks alongside the meat and potatoes.
A balanced Bulldog offensive attack led by running backs Thomas Brown and Knowshon Moreno and quarterback Matt Stafford overmatched the Warriors from the onset. The Georgia defense bent but did not break, and the score was 38-3 by the end of the 3rd quarter.
Hawaii ran the ball 18 times for 5 yards. But they got 20 first downs to Georgia’s 19 and 306 total yards to UGA’s 334. Stats hardly tells the whole story, as Georgia won the turnover battle 6-1.
The defense harassed and sacked star quarterback Colt Brennan so often, Tyler Graunke had to replace him. Graunke performed admirably, completing 13 of 19 passes for 142 yards. He threw the 4th quarter pass for Hawaii’s lone meaningless TD to end the game at 41-10.
Georgia ended the season No. 2 in the Associated Press Poll and No. 3 in the USA Today Coaches Poll.
Hawaiians were just as friendly after the game as they were before it, despite having a lot of wounds to lick. I like to believe we Georgia fans were good winners, congratulating them for being there in the first place after a season they could savor forever.
LSU went on to win the National Championship over Ohio State in the same building the following week. I had a few friends who stuck around for that game as well. The only reason I know this is because they notified me along with their next of kin in case they succumbed to excessive celebration. These people were not Buckeye fans, or I would not confess to knowing them.
Needless to say, New Orleans experienced a festive two weeks. The Crescent City needed and deserved that after Katrina wreaked her havoc in 2005. Whether or not it is for a National Championship, a trip to the Sugar Bowl is an experience each Dawgs fan should take at every opportunity. The 2008 “Peach Pineapple Punch” was certainly a Sugar Bowl for the ages.