ATHENS — It was as emotional a win as Georgia has had all season, but while the 31-24 victory over Auburn helped make the Bulldogs bowl eligible and regain a measure of national credibility, the cost was high.
Wide receiver A.J. Green and safety Bacarri Rambo were both injured in the win over Auburn, and neither player will suit up this week against Kentucky, head coach Mark Richt said.
Green suffered a sprain of the AC joint in his left shoulder following a reception in the second quarter and did not return to the game. Richt said Saturday he expected Green to be ready for Georgia’s bowl game, but a day later, he wasn’t certain if the injury would allow his receiver to return any sooner.
“What you want is not only to get the soreness out, but you want it to be strong, too,” Richt said. “So we’ve got to see how quickly we can get him pain free, and from there we’ll see. Just because he’s pain free doesn’t necessarily mean he’s ready to play.”
While Green’s injury may prove to be more serious, Rambo’s injury was far more frightening.
After making a hit on Auburn’s Mario Fannin to dislodge a potential game-tying touchdown grab, Rambo fell to the turf and remained motionless for more than 10 minutes. Medical personnel worked to secure his legs, neck and arms before carting him off the field. Rambo raised his arm to let the crowd know he wasn’t badly hurt, and the good news helped spur Georgia’s defense to stops on Auburn’s final two plays.
Aftward, Richt acknowledged that Rambo had lost consciousness on the field after the hit and suffered a concussion, but the long-term prognosis was good. Rambo was taken to St. Mary’s Hospital for observations, and Richt said the redshirt freshman safety was already looking much better.
“He really has recovered extremely well,” Richt said. “There are really no symptoms from it — no headaches, no neck pain. Just about every test he’s been through, he’s passed with flying colors. But he will not play this week for sure.”
Rambo’s hit was overshadowed by the injury that followed, but linebacker Rennie Curran said it was the key to Georgia’s win Saturday.
“It was huge, and it came at the best time,” Curran said. “It was clutch. Games like these come down to a few plays, and that was one of them. Fannin clearly had the ball in his hands, and if it weren’t for Rambo, it would have been a touchdown.”
As he was being carted off the field, Rambo told his teammates to finish the game strong, and that’s exactly what they did. Cornelius Washington sacked Auburn quarterback Chris Todd on third-and-11, and cornerback Brandon Boykin broke up Todd’s last-gasp throw into the end zone on fourth down to seal the win.
“Just seeing (Rambo) move, I knew he was going to be OK,” Boykin said. “They had third-and-11, and we were just confident in ourselves that we weren’t going to give them 11 yards.”
Quintin Banks will likely see more action at safety this week with Rambo out, but the job of replacing Green — the SEC’s top receiver — won’t be an easy task.
Israel Troupe, Tavarres King and Orson Charles each stepped in to help negate Green’s loss against Auburn. Troupe hauled in a 50-yard touchdown reception as Green was making his way to the locker room, King had a 47-yard grab to set up another touchdown and Charles’ 34-yard reception in the third quarter proved to be a turning point in the game.
“A lot of times, we kind of rely on A.J. to make the big catch or score the touchdown,” Charles said. “Now we have to come together as a team. I’m pretty sure (offensive coordinator Mike) Bobo will dig into that playbook, and we’ll come together as a team and make sure everybody does their part to go out there and have success.”
While freshman Rantavious Wooten started against Tennessee Tech when Green sat out with a bruised lung two weeks ago, Richt said he hasn’t determined who would start in place of Green this week against Kentucky.
Richt said that, while the receptions made by the young receivers were nice, the run blocking downfield was problematic, and that would likely be the determining factor in who landed the starting job this week.
“We’ve got some practicing to do to determine our starters at receiver right now,” Richt said. “They made some nice plays catching the ball, but we need to block better in the perimeter, much better than we had this last game. I’ve very disappointed in how we blocked at the receiver position. ... We’ve got to see who wants it the most during the week and probably determine it once we know how these guys practice.”
EXTRA POINTS: Linebacker Darius Dewberry left Saturday’s game early with a hyper-extended elbow, but Richt said the senior should be able to play this week. ... Georgia’s game against Kentucky this week will kick off at 7:45 p.m. and air on ESPN2.