Auburn, Ala.--What a difference a week can make. Last Sunday Auburn senior quarterback Brandon Cox was obviously down after not only being pulled in a loss to Mississippi State the day before, but also being told that true freshman Kodi Burns would get the start against New Mexico State. A week later Cox was back in good spirits and on top of the depth chart after his solid performance in relief of Burns in Auburn's 55-20 blasting of the Aggies. His performance was solid enough that he had a little news for everyone in attendance.
"It's good to be back," Cox says.
Nothing more needed to be said from the quarterback that looked more like his old self after coming on in the second quarter against New Mexico State. Finishing the night 13-19 for 135 yards and one touchdown pass, his numbers weren't overwhelming but Cox says he did some things in the offense that make him feel better about his game heading into Auburn's showdown with Florida in Gainesville this coming Saturday night.
"It was probably a B," Cox says of his self-evaluation. "I graded out about 90 percent overall. There were still a couple of passes I should have hit. Managing the game, I checked the ball down a couple of times and got one big run after the catch. That's what I haven't been doing is not forcing the ball and checking it down. I had some big plays doing that."
That was something that offensive coordinator Al Borges pointed to when talking about the play of Cox as well. Not a quarterback with the biggest arm, when Cox was at his best in 2005 he delivered the ball on time and to a variety of receivers. Saturday was the first time this season Cox appeared to make those same kinds of decisions in the heat of battle.
"After he got that one bad snap out of his system he really played well," Borges says. "He had some really good plays. There were a couple of simple check-downs under pressure that gained a lot of yards. He made some beautiful throws to Rod Smith. I think we took a step in the right direction.
"I think once we got settled in we did a nice job of moving the ball," Borges adds. "I think the kids were coming off the ball and playing as hard as we've played all year. I think it was indicative of the tempo of practice all week. It was really, really good. With the changes inside the guys were fired up to have a chance to play."
Burns earned the start against the Aggies and early on struggled to get the offense going with three true freshmen offensive linemen trying to get their feet wet. After throwing a 58-yard scoring strike to Rodgeriqus Smith, Burns didn't move the offense on the next drive thanks to a drop by Robert Dunn that would have been a first down. With New Mexico State sitting on the run, the coaches decided to turn to Cox to see if he could provide a spark off the bench and he delivered.
"I knew if I did get the chance I had to take advantage of it," Cox says. "I had to do what I had to and not try to force anything and take the check-downs. I pretty much did that.
"He seized the moment," Borges adds. "He had an opportunity to stake a claim on his position and I think he took advantage of it. He understands our offense. Anytime you give Brandon Cox time to throw he's usually going to hit the target."
Cox now gets the chance to continue an impressive streak on the road and against Top 10 competition since he has been Auburn's quarterback. Victories over number two Florida and number six LSU in 2006 and wins at number nine Georgia and against number eight Alabama in 2005 have given Cox the confidence to get the job done in the harshest of atmospheres. He notes that having himself back as the starter should help the team cope with The Swamp and give the Tigers a shot to pull off the upset.
"It would be really tough on Kodi to go into a situation like that," Cox says. "I'm glad I'm playing better than I have been because it's going to help the team out. Kodi is still going to be in there running and doing what he does. It's good for us to get us both out there."