ATHENS – A. J. Green probably saw the best coverage he has faced all year Saturday against LSU. He still almost won the game.
When Green went up for what everybody at Sanford Stadium assumed was the winning touchdown catch with 1:09 to play, he had cornerback Chris Hawkins wearing him like a jersey.
Hawkins was in better position to make the catch from quarterback Joe Cox than Green, but somehow Green went up, reached over Hawkins and plucked the ball from right in front of his eyes. The grab was good for a 16-yard touchdown.
But what happened in the ensuing moments was evidence of what played out as a bittersweet day for Green.
Georgia was called for excessive celebration on the play, which helped LSU get good field position to score the winning touchdown with 46 seconds left. The officiating crew released a statement after the game saying they had called the penalty on Green for making "a gesture to the crowd, calling attention to himself."
Green didn't seem to know that was the case immediately after the game, telling reporters he was surprised by it, and didn't know a flag had been thrown until later.
Green knew it was going to be a difficult day but he figured for other reasons. He was expecting the undivided attention of LSU cornerback Patrick Peterson, a sophomore from Pompano Beach, Fla., with an assist from safety Chad Jones.
"They did a great job in the secondary," Green said. "Me and 7 [Peterson], we're real cool. He's a great athlete, probably the top DB in the nation. And No. 3 [Jones] is a great safety. It's hard to make big plays on those two guys especially when they're doubling you."
Green managed one big play in the first half, and that was his only catch of the half for a 27-yard gain after he stopped and turned to create some space from Peterson. Cox had Green open on a fly route on the previous drive, where he had beaten Peterson downfield, but Cox overthrew him.
"That has to be adrenaline because I've never felt like I could overthrow him," Cox said.
Green came back with four catches in the second half to finish with 99 yards receiving.
His first three catches went for first downs, which was saying something on a day when first downs came at a premium for Georgia. He had two passes batted away by Peterson, including one in the end zone.
That didn't seem to deter Green though.
"I'm not the type of guy to get frustrated," he said. "If things don't go my way, I’m going to keep working and eventually it'll happen."
After the game, he and Peterson shook hands and exchanged telephone numbers to keep in touch.
LSU linebacker Perry Riley said afterward the Tigers aren't banking on seeing Green around for long, figuring he'll be headed to the NFL after next season.
"He goes and gets the ball," said Riley, a graduate of Stephenson. "He doesn't let the ball come to him. He attacks it at the highest point. ... He's a great player, and he's going to be here for a minute."
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