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September 22, 2008

Green emerges as big weapon for Georgia

RELATED: Georgia defense keys easy win at Arizona State

TEMPE, Arizona Georgia freshman wide receiver A.J. Green had no premonitions, revelations or late-night visions.

There was nothing to indicate he would emerge as another big-play threat in the Bulldogs' offense on Saturday night.

A.J. Green had a big game against Arizona State, catching eight passes for 159 yards.
Green didn't see it coming. How could Arizona State?

Green caught eight Matthew Stafford passes for 159 yards and a touchdown to show the Sun Devils and a national TV audience just what he could do and how he could enhance Georgia's national-championship aspirations.

Green had caught a total of eight passes in his first three games, so Arizona State didn't have much reason to make him a focus of its defense. Well, not until the second half, anyway. He had seven catches for 150 yards in the first half.

"He benefited from some of the coverages they were playing," Georgia coach Mark Richt said. "They tend to play a soft form of coverage on the wide side of the field. It's something that they've done for years. A.J. was able to take advantage of it."

Did he ever. That was particularly the case in a late second-quarter drive in which Green schooled Arizona State cornerback Omar Bolden and reeled in passes of 23, 31 and 14 yards, the last one staking the Bulldogs to a 21-3 halftime lead.

Arizona State adjusted its coverage in the second half, but the damage already had been done.

"We definitely wanted to make sure we kept it coming his way," Richt said. "In the second half, they rolled their coverage toward him a little more. They put a guy on him and locked him man-to-man with a safety over the top. We didn't try to beat a dead horse, but he basically changed the game for us. I was very proud of what he did."

Green was proud, too. But he played it low-key.

"I was just open," Green said, shrugging. "I got open and I wanted them to get the ball to me, and they did."

Asked if he had done anything special or if something had occurred in practice as a prelude to his breakout game, Green shook his head.

"I just go out there and try to make big plays for my team when my name is called," Green said. "It comes from playing every day. The older guys have really been helping me out. They help me with my routes.

"I'm just going out there and having fun. I'm not thinking about it too much and I'm acting like I'm in high school having fun."

That's for sure. Green, from Summerville (S.C.) High, was a five-star prospect who was the No. 2 wide receiver in the class.

Green proved a nice complement to the running of Knowshon Moreno, who rushed for two touchdowns and 149 yards.

"All the receivers have the ability to create room (for the running game)," Moreno said. "A.J., particularly, was making the big plays, which really opened up the run for us. It's always good to have both elements of the game."

The Bulldogs face No. 9 Alabama this week. Later, they face Tennessee, LSU, Florida, Auburn and improving Vanderbilt.

"When you get the combination of quarterback, running back and a receiver or two, you can have a lot of confidence against man-to-man (defenses)," Richt said. "A.J. had a big night probably because we haven't used him in that fashion to this point.

"There was no reason for (Arizona State) to pull up its coverage in the first half."

There will be for Alabama this Saturday.

RELATED: Georgia defense keys easy win at Arizona State

Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at olin@rivals.com.



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