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The Honolulu Advertiser

Updated at 6:48 p.m., Sunday, December 2, 2007

Warriors to play Georgia in Sugar Bowl

Advertiser Staff


Colt Brennan (center) and teammates react to the announcement of the Bowl Championship Series invitation to the Sugar Bowl. Hawaii will play Georgia Jan. 1 in the Superdome in New Orleans, La.

Joaquin Siopack | The Honolulu Advertiser

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The University of Hawaii will play Georgia in the Sugar Bowl Jan. 1 in the Superdome in New Orleans, La.

The announcement touched off a wild celebration at Stan Sheriff Center, where more than 7,500 fans showed up to be part of a segment of Fox Sports' live showing of the Bowl Championship Series Selection Show today from the Stan Sheriff Center.

Quarterback Colt Brennan entered to a standing ovation and chants of "Colt, Colt," and "BCS, BCS."

After the announcement Brennan said it wouldn't be just a football team going to play in the Sugar Bowl, it "would be the whole state of Hawaii" going there to play.

UH coach June Jones, when interviewed by Fox, said it was an "unbelievable experience."

The Warriors, at 12-0 the nation's only unbeaten team, accomplished their perfect feat by rallying from a 21-point deficit to beat Washington, 35-28, last night at Aloha Stadium.

"As I've said this hasn't been about individuals, but about the entire state and fans," said Brennan, who also acknowledged his teammates. "You guys have been part of it."

The entire football team — most wearing WAC champion T-shirts and some in dress shirts and ties — was brought on to the floor at the Sheriff Center and were asked to perform the ha'a and haka for the FOX TV audience.

"This is going to be an exciting day," said UH coach June Jones, as he entered the arena to a standing ovation. "We knew we would have to win all our games to have a chance to be here today. I'm appreciative of you sharing this time with us."

"We understood there's one game left, it's not over," he said. "We have one more game left. It's about winning the BCS bowl game wherever we go."

Fans left the Stan Sheriff Center with wide smiles and hoarse voices this afternoon, after nearly an hour of cheering on the Warriors.

"I am euphoric," said Karen Ostborg, of Kaneohe. "This is the biggest thing that's happened to the state of Hawai'i for a long time."

Raymond Lee, of Hawaii Kai, was left nearly speechless.

"I cannot begin to describe the season," he said. "What happened today is unbelievable."

Lee and a host of other fans vowed to fly to Louisiana for the for the Sugar Bowl, and many said they had already made arrangements with travel companies.

"That gave me chicken skin," said Beth Dunham, as she left the stadium. Dunham and seven of her friends — all Warrior fanatics — are going to Louisiana together.

Janyce Higa, one of those friends, said the group has stuck with the Warriors through thick and thin, and now it's paid off.

"We're not fair-weather fans," she said. "We're fans."

Sheriff Center gates opened at 2:15 p.m. and fans were expected to be seated by 2:50 p.m. for the program that started at 3 p.m.

At 2:30 p.m., the lower bowl of the arena was filled.

The UH cheerleading squads and Rainbow dance squad began to lead cheers and the UH band also was on hand to play. Fans began to do the wave as they waited for the broadcast to start.

Admission was free and UH officials said they wanted to fill the 10,300-seat arena much as Boise State did for their BCS announcement last year.

The Warriors completed major college football's only perfect regular season this year with a 35-28 victory over Washington last night at Aloha Stadium.

Brennan threw a 5-yard touchdown pass to Ryan Grice-Mullins with 44 seconds left to give Hawaii the victory. Brennan was 42-of-50, including 6-of-6 on the winning 76-yard drive. He threw for 442 yards and five TDs with no interceptions.

Georgia, coached by Mark Richt, is led by quarterback Matthew Stafford, who completed 180 of 325 passes for 2,348 yards and 18 touchdowns this season and Knowshon Moreno who had 239 carries for 1,335 yards and 12 TDs.

It will be the Warriors' eighth bowl appearance, but just the second outside of Hawaii. UH played in the Holiday Bowl in San Diego in 1992. Hawaii is 5-2 in bowl games, including a 41-24 win over Arizona State in last year's Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.

With the Western Athletic Conference champion Warriors going to New Orleans, WAC runner-up Boise State will face East Carolina of Conference USA in the Dec. 23 Hawaii Bowl at Aloha Stadium.

Hawaii, which has won a national-best 13 consecutive games, needed to finish in the top 12 of the BCS standings today to earn an automatic at-large berth into a prestigious BCS game.

The standings are based on two polls — the USA Today and Harris Interactive Top 25s — and six computer rankings. Hawaii was ranked No. 10 in both polls today.

The standings are used to select matchups for the five BCS bowl games, including the BCS title game. The champions from each of the six BCS conferences receives automatic berths. A non-BCS conference team can earn an automatic at-large berth by finishing in the top 12 of the BCS standings. Hawaii is a member of the Western Athletic Conference, a non-BCS conference.