Another First For Cox And Auburn Offense

Offensive coordinator Al Borges talks about Monday's loss to Wisconsin and the struggles by his offense.

Orlando, Fla.--All season long sophomore quarterback Brandon Cox had struggled in the first of everything. In his first start he turned the ball over five times in a loss to Georgia Tech. In his first road start he threw two first-half interceptions at Arkansas before settling down to lead the Tigers to the win. Monday in his first bowl game Cox once again struggled in a loss to Wisconsin.

Completing just 15 of 33 passes for 137 yards and one touchdown with one interception, Cox never seemed to be in a rhythm against a Badger defense that had struggled mightily much of the 2005 season. Offensive coordinator Al Borges says he has no rhyme or reason to explain the performance of Cox and his offense on Monday.

"It was very, very un-Cox-like," Borges says of Cox's performance against Wisconsin. "I told him on the sideline ‘you're going to have days you're not as sharp and those are the days you have to will yourself to a win'. You just have to find a way to eke out some points.

"He was very good," Borges adds of Cox' preparation leading up to the game. "The practices, I thought, went real well. I have to admit I'm a little blindsided by the way we played because our practices have been excellent. We've been doing enough ones versus one against our defense so we get enough fast looks. I thought we really prepared well mentally and physically to play this game. I'm surprised."

Cooper Wallace eyes the goal line following this reception. The Tigers would later have to settle for a field goal on the drive.

From the outset the Tigers never got it going on offense as an interception on the second play of the game was a sign of things to come for Cox on this day. Struggling all day to put the ball on target, normally a strength for the sophomore left-hander, his problems were only a few for an offense that had been clicking coming into the bowl game.

"It was all part of the whole thing," Borges says. "We lacked rhythm. We either dropped a ball or made a bad throw or had a protection breakdown. It seemed like it was something different every time. It wasn't just the receivers dropping the ball. It was a little bit of everything."

Trailing 17-0 at halftime and having just 116 yards to show for their work, the offense came out and had a solid second half. The key play came early in the fourth quarter as Cox hit Courtney Taylor for a touchdown on a fourth-down pass to bring the Tigers within a touchdown at 17-10. Borges says at the time he felt like his team was right back into it, but it wasn't to be on this day.

"I thought that would help us," Borges' says. "I never thought we were ever out of the game until the very end. I always thought we had a chance. I believe we have a good, explosive offense. It didn't show up too much today, but we're the type of team that can score. It doesn't usually take us a lot of time to do it. I never really felt we were out of the game."

Something that hurt the Tigers all day was the lack of the power running game that had been the focus of the offense for much of the last half of the season. Despite averaging over four yards per carry between them, Kenny Irons and Brad Lester never got untracked against the Badgers.

"I thought they did a nice job of trying to take some things away," Borges says. "We didn't do a good job of taking some things they were giving us. Those two things combined are why we weren't more productive."

Now the Tigers turn their attention to spring practice where they will look to put this game behind them and focus on the future. Borges says that while there are many things he would like to forget about Monday's game he knows the experience will be beneficial to Cox and a young offense down the road.

"This was a good experience," Borges says. "It's not a nice experience, but it's a real good experience to be in a bowl game and play under that kind of pressure and know now that you've experienced that and know the next time it comes around you'll be prepared for it."

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