MEMPHIS – A.J. Green walked away from what is widely expected to be his final game at Georgia with the consolation prize of an offensive MVP trophy in a game that the Bulldogs failed to score a touchdown.
Georgia wide receiver A.J. Green (8) makes a reception in front of UCF defensive back Reggie Weams (40) in the first half of the Liberty Bowl on Friday.
The star junior didn’t say after Georgia’s 10-6 loss to UCF Friday in the Liberty Bowl if he’s already decided to go to the NFL instead of returning for another season.
"No, man, I’m not going to go make a decision right now until I have a clear mind," Green said. "I’m just going to give it a couple of days and let it pass through and I’m going to go from there."
Green, who had eight catches for 77 yards in the game, is projected as a top-10 NFL pick.
Among other Georgia players that submitted paperwork to an NFL underclassmen advisory board: outside linebacker Justin Houston, cornerback Brandon Boykin, offensive linemen Cordy Glenn and Trinton Sturdivant and punter Drew Butler.
So did kicker Blair Walsh.
"I’m not going anywhere," Walsh said outside the Georgia locker room. "I’m not ending it like that I can tell you that. That’s for damn sure."
Bowl jerseys off limits for now
Georgia has taken a step to avoid any problem this time around of a player selling a bowl jersey.
Bulldogs players with eligibility remaining didn’t receive their Liberty Bowl jerseys as a bowl gift after Friday’s game and likely won’t get them until they complete their eligibility, athletic director Greg McGarity said before the game.
Green was suspended for four games this season for selling his Independence Bowl jersey for $1,000 to someone the NCAA considers an agent.
"We’re trying to remove any possibility of that coming back to haunt our program again," McGarity said. "Our concern is students with eligibility remaining, we want to remove that possibility due to all things going on in college athletics and with our problem we had last fall."
Five Ohio State players were suspended for five games each next season for selling rings, jerseys and apparel.
"Our staff has done a good job educating our students on what they can and can’t do," McGarity said. "I’m sure that Ohio State thought that they did everything that they needed to do and yet it wasn’t enough."
Not a tough ticket
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium wasn’t quite as filled up as it had been in recent years.
Last year’s game between Arkansas and East Carolina drew 62,472 and UCF’s first appearance in the game in 2007 against Mississippi State brought in a bowl-record crowd of 63,816.
The Liberty Bowl said there were 51,231 tickets sold. No actual attendance was announced.
Georgia sold about 5,000 of its 10,000-ticket allotment. Central Florida said it sold more than half of its 10,000-ticket allotment.
Still, there were perhaps 20,000 or so Georgia fans in red at the game.
"You can see by the crowd today that it’s a heck of a lot more than 5,000," McGarity said. "There’s no way to gauge how many buy tickets through the bowl because we had no tickets on (the press box) side of the stadium yet you’ll see a couple of thousand on this side of the stadium that got tickets somehow."
McGarity took time to thank fans who did make the trip when he saw them this week.
"I think what you’re seeing today is really your die-hard fans that will make this trip," McGarity said. "You want to thank them for coming. Sometimes you take it for granted that you’re going to play in a bowl game or any type of game and people are just going to show up. Telling people you appreciate them coming is the least we can do."
Green shows punt return skills
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said recently about Green’s NFL prospects "that the only thing he doesn’t give you is the return skills," but that was before this game.
Green had some extra duties Friday.
The Bulldogs’ star receiver served as punt returner. His only return came in the second quarter for 18 yards.
Green had one punt return for 7 yards this season entering the game.
"As we practiced, A.J. was much more sure-handed during practice," coach Mark Richt said. "We had a comfort level with A.J. being able to field the ball. We know he’s an elusive runner and a guy that can make a big play if it presents itself. The big thing is we’ve got a lot of faith in his ability to field that punt. That was the No. 1 reason."
Green said the coaching staff informed him of the move a couple of weeks before the game.
"I love having the ball in my hands," he said.
This and that
Linebacker Marcus Dowtin, Georgia’s third-leading tackler entering the game, did not play because of what defensive coordinator Todd Grantham termed "a coach’s decision." … Brandon Bogotay handled kickoffs because Walsh rolled an ankle in practice during the week. … Reserve wide receiver Rantavious Wooten, who was bothered by a leg injury leading up to the game, did not play.
… The gametime temperature was 67 degrees, making it the second-warmest Liberty Bowl on record. Possible severe weather was in the forecast, but none arrived by halftime … Offensive lineman Clint Boling started his 49th and final game for Georgia. That’s the second-most for a Bulldogs’ non-kicker behind quarterback David Greene’s 52 from 2001-04.