Cox has big game after emotional week

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. -- If Bryan Cox didn’t want to play on Saturday, no one would’ve blamed him. The redshirt sophomore lost his grandfather this week.

Despite that, he never once thought about missing Saturday’s game in Knoxville. It was a rivalry game, and Cox didn’t want to miss being with his teammates and best friends to play against Tennessee.

But he also had to think about his grandfather. Not only was he convinced that his grandfather would’ve wanted him on the field, Cox also saw it as a chance to dedicate the game to him.

“(Not playing) never crossed my mind at all,” Bryan Cox said. “I love this game and I felt like he wanted me to play this game.”

What better way to honor his grandfather than with a dominating performance? And that’s exactly what Cox provided. He was third on the team with five tackles, adding three sacks and one quarterback hurry.

“I definitely was playing for him and my family and just tried to do the best I could out there,” Cox said.

It was even more impressive considering the circumstances. Cox left Gainesville on Thursday morning to be with his family and have time to grieve. The funeral was on Friday to honor Otis Williams, and by the late afternoon, Cox was on a flight to Knoxville.

“It has been a hard time for him,” Florida coach Will Muschamp said.

He got to the team hotel around 10:30 p.m. and went to sleep soon after following an emotional day. When he woke up on Saturday, it wasn’t tough to flip the switch to game day. His performance proved that.

It’s easily the best game of his career, but Cox shied away from calling it a breakout game.

“I don’t really like to label it as a breakout performance because I feel like there’s more to come,” Cox said.

Cox ended up providing the energy for a dominant defensive performance. The Gators ended the game with six sacks, and even when Cox wasn’t posting one of his three sacks, he was providing constant pressure on Tennessee quarterback Justin Worley.

The Florida defensive line was confident in its ability to get pressure against an inexperienced Tennessee offensive line, and that proved to be the case. After a dismal game at Alabama two weeks ago, the Florida defense rebounded on Saturday.

“I feel like when you’re backed up, that’s an opportunity for the defense to be great, so there was no woe is me, heads down, none of that,” Cox said. “We were going to go out there and get a stop. We were very confident in our abilities and we felt like we could get a stop every time we went out there.”

Now it’s about taking this momentum back to Gainesville and preparing for a young LSU offense. The players believe this win could carry them and provide some momentum heading into next week.

“This right here was the turning point of the season to me,” Cox said. “We have to turn this around. We have to get back right. And I think this is a good first step.”

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