Dawgs looking for better Sugar Bowl in 2008

NEW ORLEANS – Christmas of 2005 was not a great holiday for Chris Davis.

Part of his gift that year was tickets to the Sugar Bowl, where Georgia, the team to which he was committed to play, was taking on then-lightly regarded West Virginia in the Georgia Dome.

"The whole time I was talking junk to West Virginia fans," said Davis, now a freshman offensive lineman on the team. "I thought we were going to roll over them."

The SEC champion Bulldogs on the field though the same thing. Instead, Big East champion West Virginia took a 28-0 lead in the first 16 minutes of the game. The Mountaineers went on to win 38-35 and have been a national figure since.

"I remember when they jumped up 21-0, I got quiet real quick," Davis said. "The Big East made a statement with us that year. We don't want the WAC to be able to do that, so we have to show up and play."

The Western Athletic Conference will be represented by Hawaii in today's Allstate Sugar Bowl. The game will be played at 8:30 p.m. in Louisiana Superdome and televised by Fox.

The Warriors are the nation's only undefeated team but aren't considered a major threat to a team from a BCS conference. Georgia is a 7.5-point favorite in tonight's game, but they were a big favorite against the Mountaineers two years ago, too.

"I don't know if we did a good enough job of convincing our guys how good West Virginia was, how fast they were," Georgia defensive line coach Rodney Garner said. "We've tried to really emphasize that this year with Hawaii."

Georgia has made changes in its bowl preparation since that loss to West Virginia. The Bulldogs now have more conditioning and fewer days off from bowl practices.

"I think we have a little different edge than we had before that game," Bulldogs head coach Mark Richt said this week.

Hawaii coach June Jones has spent most of the week playing up its underdog role and some of his players are playing along.

"We need to get over the fact that we're here and that we're in this game," said record-setting quarterback Colt Brennan.

At the same time, the Warriors are using that status as extra motivation.

"A lot of people have been giving us trouble all week, like why are we here, and we feel like we want to prove to the world that we're capable of playing at this type of level," wide receiver Davone Bess said.

The Warriors are the third team from a non-BCS conference to qualify for a BCS bowl game. The first two, Utah and Boise State, both won. Boise State, which beat Oklahoma last year, set a precedent from WAC teams upsetting big favorites.

"That's definitely something you have to look at," Richt said. "Just like we're going to look at it saying we don't want it to happen to us, they'll look at it and want it to happen to them. It's definitely something we're both reiterating to our teams."

Broncos coach Chris Peterson offered just one piece of advice to the Warriors – relax.

"I hope they don't feel pressure because then they won't play their best," he said. "I hope they will go over there and relax and play the way they are capable of playing. If they do that, they will represent their state and their school and the WAC very well."


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