Homecoming II: Cox, Johnson Return To Waco

STILLWATER – Perrish Cox passed by Floyd Casey Stadium every day for three years while attending University High School in Waco. Victor Johnson had the opportunity to play inside Baylor's football stadium once as a member of the Waco High School football team several years ago. Both Oklahoma State defensive backs are returning to their hometown Saturday when OSU faces Baylor in Waco.

Kickoff for the Big 12 showdown between 14th-ranked Oklahoma State, 5-1 overall and 2-0 in Big 12 play, and Baylor, 3-3 and 0-2, is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. in the nationally televised game (Versus Network).

"I couldn't think of nothing better for me and Vic Johnson," Cox said on Monday. "It means a lot going home to (play in front) of my friends and family. Everybody wants to see us play … our grandmothers, our grandfathers. Everybody will get to see us play."

Cox, the senior cornerback/return specialist, will be making his second and final appearance at Floyd Casey Stadium on Saturday. The Cowboys won 45-14 over the Bears two years ago in Waco.

Johnson, a sophomore safety, will be making his first appearance in Waco since signing with Oklahoma State in February 2008. He played in last season's 34-6 victory over the Bears at Boone Pickens Stadium.

"I haven't been there since July," said Johnson, the Cowboys' backup free safety who is tied for fifth on the team with 18 tackles. "It's going to be good to play in my hometown in front of my family and friends. I'm pretty sure everybody in Waco who knows me will be there.

"It's another homecoming, so I've got two homecomings in a row," Johnson said in referring to OSU's 33-17 homecoming victory over Missouri this past weekend in Stillwater.

Johnson hopes to meet up with former Waco Lion teammates Jarred Salubi and Antonio Johnson on Saturday. Salubi, a redshirt freshman tailback, is Baylor's leading rusher with 246 yards and two touchdowns this season. Johnson, a junior linebacker, is the team's third-leading tackler.

One player the Bears will be without us sophomore quarterback Robert Griffin, who suffered a season-ending knee injury three weeks ago. The loss of last season's top freshman quarterback has been a tough blow for the Bears, who have lost back-to-back Big 12 games to Oklahoma and Iowa State without their best player.

"We have to be prepared because if we don't they will come out and score points on us," Johnson warned of being overconfident without Griffin playing for the Bears. "We have to be prepared and try to go out there and get the victory."

Cox had trouble controlling his enthusiasm Monday when asked about returning to Waco to play for the final time in his college career.

"It means everything. I was born and raised in Waco, Texas, and I've got a lot of family members who never get to watch me, except for on TV. This is their chance to watch me in person," said Cox. "There will probably be 50 family members, and that's not even including friends and teammates I played with in high school. I'm guessing I'll probably need 100 tickets.

"I may have more energy than I've ever had (before a game). I want to put on a show for them."

Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy hopes both Cox and Johnson play well – not for family and friends but so the Cowboys leave Waco with their fourth consecutive victory and the Cowboys' 13th in the last 14 meetings with the Bears.

"Maybe that will light a fire under those guys," Gundy said. "Perrish has played well for us throughout the year, and Victor has given us good effort. Maybe it'll make them play better, but we like to think they'd play hard no matter where they're at."

Defensive coordinator Bill Young is in his 42nd season as a coach and has seen his share of players return to their hometowns to play. He does not seem too concerned with the two Cowboys losing focus on their main objective this week.

"I think it's wonderful. I grew up here in Oklahoma and when we played OU, I promise you I was as ready to play as anybody in the country. Now I wasn't a very good player but I was ready to play," Young said with a laugh.

"Perrish is a senior so I don't think that will happen to him. He's kind of been there, done that. Some of the younger guys it might. You just never know. It's probably something we may need to address with them. I think it's more positive than negative."

Cox intercepted his first pass of the season in last week's victory over Missouri, and his two passes defended per game ranks first in the nation. He also is averaging 26.2 yards on kickoff returns (third in the Big 12 and 28th nationally).

"He's playing outstanding. I'll tell you, if he's not the best corner in the country he's got to be close to it. We think the world of him. Not only is he a great football player defensively but he's a tremendous special teams player too," Young said.

How does he compare to former KU All-American cornerback Aqib Talib, who now plays for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? "You hate to compare players but I wouldn't trade Perrish for anybody. I think Perrish is a heck of a guy. He's a team leader. He's a great football player for us," Young said.

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