Teammates Support Their Struggling Senior QB

Comments from a pair of fifth-year Auburn football seniors are featured as the Tigers try to regroup after losing their SEC opener to Mississippi State.

Auburn, Ala.--When Jason Campbell was a hotshot senior quarterback coming out of the high school ranks in Mississippi he made a visit to see two of the schools he was considering when Auburn took on Georgia in Athens.

On that night Auburn quarterback Ben Leard and wide receiver Ronney Daniels torched the Georgia defense on the way to a 38-21 victory in Sanford Stadium.

The win was so convincing and so easy that many Georgia fans were so stunned they chose to boo the home team unmercifully. Not only did it not help Georgia's cause that night, it made a star quarterback's decision that much easier when the time came to pick his college.

Saturday the current Auburn quarterback, Brandon Cox, had his own bad day. To be fair, Cox didn't have a great statistical season in 2006 and his 2007 has been dreadful to start the season. Still, when Cox's second interception of the day came in the first quarter he was soundly booed as he ran off the field. Not a whole team, but one player.

In a world of instant gratification and what have you done for me lately, the fact that some Auburn fans can boo a player at any point is unbelievable, Cox's teammates say. The winningest active QB in the SEC with 20 victories in games he has started, Cox deserves more respect says fellow fifth-year senior Quentin Groves.

"I've never seen anything like that in my life," Groves says. "To boo Cox, that hurt me to my heart. I was like ‘wow, how could you do that to a guy that has been here for you'?"

Groves wasn't the only Auburn player that was affected by the booing early in Saturday's game, but he was the most vocal. Several players talked about how much it hurt them to hear that and Groves says it's because of what Cox has done for this team on and off the field that they have such a strong response to his criticism.

"I think guys brought it up because Cox means so much to those guys," Groves points out. "He means so much to this team. To see your brother down is just like ‘oh my God,' I could sit here all day and say what the fans shouldn't have done, but they're going to do what they're going to do."

As much as it hurt the team and Cox to be booed, he didn't sit and sulk on the sidelines. Instead, he put forth a strong front and helped true freshman Kodi Burns when he came off the field, acting as another coach for the Tigers. When Burns scored his first career touchdown to give Auburn the lead, it was Cox that was first on the field to congratulate him. Groves says that's the kind of guy Cox is and he has something everyone can learn from.

"If you're taken out because you're not doing so good then the other guy that is in there, get him up," Groves says. "That's what it shows the young guys. Things are not going to always go your way but it's the way of the team that matters."

On Sunday, Coach Tommy Tuberville said a decision on the quarterback could be made sometime this week. Cox could remain the starter and have Burns come in as a situational player or Burns could start and play with Cox as the situational player. Either way Cox said he knows the Tigers have to do something on offense and he's ready to help in any way he can.

"We're going to have to do something to get the offense going because it's just not going right now," Cox says. "Whatever works."

Saying it's just another bump in the road for him as an Auburn quarterback, there is no doubt that Cox is struggling more this season than at any time in his career. Even his much-maligned first start against Georgia Tech when he threw four interceptions was offset by 342 yards passing. To this point it's his only 300-yard game at Auburn ,but also one of the few he's lost. Cox says it's tough to lose games and play the way he has but he'll keep working to get things fixed.

"I'm just forcing the ball," Cox notes. "I did have a good fall and a good spring leading up to it (2007 season). We had a lot of things go our way last year in close games and this year has been different. Like coach has been saying, maybe it will turn around and maybe it won't. You just have to keep fighting it."

No matter if he turns it around or not, Cox won the admiration of his teammates and coaches on Saturday when he refused to feel sorry for himself and instead came back to lead the Tigers down the field on the final drive. While they came up up short with the final drive ending on downs at the Mississippi State nine, true freshman Lee Ziemba says that the senior taught everyone a lesson that day that won't soon be forgotten.

"He's a great leader," Ziemba says. "He's a winner. Brandon is a winner. He's going to do what he feels is best for the team to win the game. He showed that Saturday. We came up a little bit short but he was a great example to us. I appreciate him for it."


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