Quarterback Getting Used To Mind Games

Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox talks about making decisions at the line of scrimmage and the improvements on offense.

Auburn, Ala.–-The numbers for Auburn's offense don't look as impressive on paper. With just 202 yards passing and 320 total yards the Tigers didn't dominate the Bulldogs on offense, but ask offensive coordinator Al Borges and he'll tell you it was much better than the opener against Georgia Tech. Ask quarterback Brandon Cox and he'll say the same thing.

"It's an improvement," Cox said. "We got better from the Georgia Tech game. We're still not to where we want to be, but we did improve. We didn't have any penalties on offense and we only had one turnover. That's a big improvement from Tech."

One area that wasn't better was in the running game. Despite running the ball 41 times, the Tigers managed just 118 yards on the ground against a Mississippi State defense that refused to let Auburn pound it on the ground. While the blame will go to the offensive line or the backs, much of the running game success can come from the decision-making of the quarterback. That's something that Borges said Cox improved at in game number two.

"It was good," Borges said. "We had about three errors where the ball could have been run somewhere else. Those are things that he's got to get in the game and do. Jason Campbell was so good at that. He would get you in good run plays all of the time. Brandon about 95 percent of the time does the same thing. He graded well. He played at about a B or a B+ and after last week that's so much better. That's such a big part of what we do in terms of run checks. He was pretty good, but he wasn't completely solid."

Brandon Cox follows through on a pass against Mississippi State.

Watching Campbell get Auburn is the right play time after time last season, Cox had the chance to sit in film breakdowns and see what the fifth-year senior was looking at and thinking when he checked the Tigers into another play. Cox said that watching the current Washington Redskin was a big help to his development as a quarterback, particularly his run checks.

"That part of it comes easier with experience," Cox said. "Jason did a great job of it last year. He's probably one of the best out there at getting us in the right situations. Just watching him and watching how he did it, I've learned a lot. I have carried that over to this year and the more experienced I get the better I'll become with it."

From the outside looking in, when a running play goes wrong it seems like either the line or back made a mistake. While that is still the case with many plays, the majority of the time the play would work if run in the proper direction against a defense's weak spot. Cox said that it's his call at the line to get Auburn in the best play and he has some options in doing just that.

"There are certain situations where I have a running play and can go either left or right with it," Cox said. "If we see a blitz or something we don't like we can also check into a passing play. It also depends on the team we're playing and what kind of defense they're running.

"It's definitely a different perspective when you're out there," Cox added. "That part of football, a lot of people don't understand. I come up to the line and there's three plays that coach gives me that I can get up there and call by just having to read the defenses and call plays to the weakness of the defense. There's a big-time mind game out there that people don't understand."

Saturday when the Tigers decided to run the ball rather than throw it against the Bulldogs, it was up to Cox to get them in the right plays. While much of the time that happened, there were some cases where he made mistakes, but that's part of the learning process at quarterback he said.

"There were a few that I made mistakes on," Cox said. "I saw that on film and I'm going to learn from it. Once you see something for the first time and you make a mistake on it, you can correct it and it's a lot easier the next time. We've watched film and now we'll correct the mistakes."

With non-conference foes Ball State and Western Kentucky coming in for games the next two weeks, you can expect to see more running from the Auburn offense as it gets ready for the Southeastern Conference wars down the road. Cox said that while he would love to throw the ball more, he understands that they need to be able to run the ball effectively to win in the SEC.

"It's something we have to do," Cox said. "We have to establish the running game and become a more balanced offensive team with our run-pass ratio. We're working on that and once we get that established we're going to be a good offense."

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