Georgia vs. Kentucky
When: 7:45 p.m., Saturday
Where: Sanford Stadium, Athens
TV, radio: ESPN2; 103.7-FM, 106.1-FM
Web site: www.georgiadogs.com
ATHENS — Israel Troupe was regarded as a big-time prospect when he signed with Georgia three years ago.
A.J. Green’s shoulder injury gives Troupe his long-awaited opportunity to play up to the high expectations as a starter.
Green, the Southeastern Conference’s leading receiver, will not play in Saturday night’s game against Kentucky after injuring his left shoulder in last week’s win over Auburn. Coach Mark Richt said Green is not expected to need surgery, but it’s possible Green will not return before the Bulldogs’ bowl game.
Troupe helped keep the offense moving by making a 50-yard touchdown catch in the 31-24 win over Auburn.
“You don’t want it to happen the way it did with A.J. going down, but I knew that one day my opportunity would come,” Troupe said Tuesday. “It came, and I made the best of it.”
Georgia’s depth chart released on Tuesday lists Troupe as the starter at Green’s flanker position.
Troupe, a third-year sophomore, said he was certain his opportunity would come. He also acknowledged he had difficulty waiting for his chance.
“I was being real stubborn at the beginning of the season because I wasn’t getting the playing time I thought I deserved,” he said. “But I just stayed levelheaded and then when my number was called I just went out there and made the play.”
Green leads the Bulldogs with 47 catches for 751 yards and six touchdowns. He was walking to the locker room with the shoulder injury when Troupe caught the 50-yard touchdown pass from Joe Cox.
“I just couldn’t believe it was coming to me, actually,” Troupe said. “I just blocked everything out and just concentrated on the ball, and when I caught it and saw the end zone I was just like ‘Get there as fast as I can.’ I kind of stumbled getting in there, but I made it.”
Before the Auburn game, Troupe (6-1, 215) was regarded by some as a big-name recruit who had struggled to find a regular role in coach Mark Richt’s offense. Troupe was redshirted in 2007 and had only four catches for 39 yards last season.
Troupe’s two catches for 62 yards against Auburn were his first of the season.
“I kept my head up the whole time,” he said.
Troupe could play a much bigger role as Georgia tries to finish the season strong and improve its bowl standing.
Richt would not speculate on the chances Green would return for next week’s final regular-season game against Georgia Tech.
Georgia also will be without safety Bacarri Rambo against Kentucky. Rambo suffered a concussion against Auburn.
“We haven’t counted either one of them out,” said Richt of the Georgia Tech game.
Troupe and Tavarres King are listed as the probable starters against Kentucky. No Georgia receiver comes close to Green’s production.
Michael Moore, who is listed behind King, is second with 21 catches for 187 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Orson Charles has 16 catches for 284 yards and two touchdowns.
The win over Auburn gave Georgia reason to believe it can have success on offense without Green. The Bulldogs scored all of their 31 points after Green’s injury.
“It was a good sign for us, no doubt,” Richt said.
Richt said at his weekly news conference that Green’s injury “would probably be the No. 1 topic of discussion” if not for the success of Troupe and others against Auburn.
“It was great for a guy like Israel Troupe to come in and get a chance and then come through,” Richt said. “That’s a great thing for him and a great thing for us. To be able to put the points on the board without your top receiver, it was good.”
King set up a touchdown with a 47-yard catch. Charles had a 34-yard reception.
Cox said Troupe, King and Charles will need more big plays against Kentucky.
“Guys stepped up in the receiver spots and made some big plays,” Cox said Tuesday. “That’s what it came down to. They know now they have to step up. It’s their time to make plays. A.J. is not playing this week. I think they’re going to step up to the challenge.”