Georgia vs. Texas A&M
When: 5 p.m. Monday
Where: Shreveport, La.
How much: ESPN2
SHREVEPORT, La. — Georgia’s offense showed down the stretch it could still make plays even with its biggest playmaker sidelined, especially in its upset of top-10 Georgia Tech.
Now Georgia is blending receiver A.J. Green back into its mix for Monday’s Independence Bowl. He’s rejoining an offense that averaged a robust 235 rushing yards in its last three games.
“We’re glad he’s back because even if he doesn’t get eight balls for 160 yards, he’s one of those guys where his presence kind of makes people gameplan towards him,” quarterback Joe Cox said.
Green will have gone more than six weeks without playing in a game when he takes the field against Texas A&M.
He separated his shoulder in the first half of the Nov. 14 game against Auburn and missed the loss to Kentucky and win over Georgia Tech.
The sophomore easily leads Georgia with 47 catches, but had only nine in the second half of the season. He missed three and half games due to injury, including one game because of a bruised lung.
“It was painful just standing on the sidelines,” Green said. “I never missed any games in high school. ... You can’t take it for granted because it can go any day, any play. Any play can be your last play.”
Instead of going to the college football awards show earlier this month, Green watched on TV as Notre Dame’s Golden Tate won the Biletnikoff Award. Texas’ Jordan Shipley and Bowling Green’s Freddie Barnes were the other finalists.
“That was one of my goals, just to be in Orlando,” said Green, a semifinalist.
Green said coach Mark Richt told him if he was healthy, he would have been there.
“Missing some games, I didn’t make the all-American teams like I wanted to,” Green said. “I’m just going to come back really strong and just do what I did in the first part of the season.”
Green also is motivated to produce more than he did in the Capital One Bowl last year.
Both Green and Mohamed Massaquoi entered in range of 1,000-yard seasons, but each fell short when they were held to a single catch. Green has 751 yards this year in nine games.
“I think he wants to finish strong,” offensive coordinator Mike Bobo said. “He was not able to finish strong last year having a nagging groin (injury).”
Bobo said Green has looked good in practice, but is “just a little bit rusty, trying to work out the kinks.”
The rust will come off against the Aggies, who rank 111th in the nation in pass defense.
“It will be exciting, no doubt,” Richt said. “That guy is special, and we all know it. It’s going to give A&M something else to think about besides trying to stop the run, so that’s what you want. You want a threat to score anytime somebody tries to single cover him and I think A.J has that ability, so they have to decide what they want to do as far as how they are going to stop the run and still manage A.J., so it’ll create a problem for them.”
Texas A&M defensive coordinator Joe Kines said the only player he’s seen in the Big 12 conference comparable to Green was Oklahoma State’s Dez Bryant.
“I remember him coming out of high school just being a fabulous recruit, a fabulous wide receiver,” Kines said of Green. “There are some folks you look at that are just a tackle. Some folks are just a linebacker. A.J. - he’s a wide receiver. That’s what you’re looking for in a wide receiver. He has the size, the speed, really has the makeup to be one of the better ones in the nation.”
Michael Moore is looking forward to lining up with Green again.
“For me personally, it’s going to be fun for me to play with him one more time,” said Moore, a senior playing in his final game as Bulldog. “It’s great for the team. He’s such a playmaker that he can make that spark when we’re in a tight game.”
Georgia has Green again for probably one more season after this one, but Green isn’t thinking about leaving for the NFL Draft after next season quite yet.
“Oh, man, I’m just having fun out here,” Green said. “Day by day, getting my education, making new friends, it’s fun around here, man. I’ll worry about that next year when it comes. About this time.”