Bad day frustrates AU's Cox
AUBURN — Auburn quarterback Brandon Cox usually is known for his composure and for not letting his emotions get to him.
In Saturday's performance in Auburn's 37-15 home loss to Georgia, Cox was anything but composed.
He was 4-of-12 passing for 35 yards and a touchdown. But he also threw four interceptions and had a personal foul called on him.
"Just frustration," said Cox, a junior. "I know it's always the second person who throws the punch gets the flag. The play was already over, and I was kind of slowing down, and he basically tackled me from behind. That's not who I am."
There was nothing normal about what happened to Cox and the Tigers. For the first time in the tenure of offensive coordinator Al Borges, an opponent returned an interception for a touchdown. Also, Georgia defensive back Tra Battle intercepted three of Cox's passes.
"It's just so unusual," Borges said. "You try to draw conclusions as to why the balls are intercepted. We'll see what's going on. We'll remedy that. It's disappointing."
Cox has come back from a poor performance like this before. He threw four interceptions in the 2005 season opener against Georgia Tech but threw only four more the rest of the season.
"They said they still have faith in me," Cox said. "They know nothing really affects me. I can put things behind me. They told me to put it behind me."
The coaching staff didn't once think about pulling Cox for backup Blake Field.
"No. Brandon's our guy," Auburn head coach Tommy Tuberville said. "We know what he can do."
Reverting to midseason form
For the past several games, Auburn's offense had taken steps forward, racking up yards, points and confidence.
Everything fell apart Saturday as Auburn managed only 171 yards on 37 plays. Worse yet, the offensive line gave up four sacks after not having allowed one in the previous 14 quarters.
"It was a complete lack of continuity offensive," Borges said. "Offense is about getting in sync — a successful play after another successful play. You get in a rhythm and you go. We didn't feel that at all."
The statistic that stands out the most is that receiver Courtney Taylor led Auburn in rushing with 51 yards on two carries. Kenny Irons had only 49 yards on 10 attempts.
"We just seemed to never get in any rhythm with any running game," Tuberville said. "Brad Lester, Kenny (Irons), Bo Jackson — it wouldn't have made any difference who we had back there."
AU can't hold on third down
Auburn had its chances on defense to stop Georgia. The Tigers put the Bulldogs in third down 14 times, but Georgia converted eight times.
As a result, the Tigers couldn't halt Georgia's forward progress.
"We gave up a few deep balls, had a couple of guys get out of gaps at times, and we missed way too many tackles," Auburn linebacker Will Herring said.
"I missed a huge tackle on third down and they ended up scoring on that play."
When Auburn faced third down, the Tigers were 0-for-7.
Stafford's big day
While Auburn's Brandon Cox struggled through a sub-par day, Georgia true freshman Matthew Stafford was having a career game.
He missed only six passes, completing 14 of 20 for 219 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 83 yards on seven carries.
Even bigger, he didn't throw an interception for the first time in four games. He threw eight in the three games heading into Saturday.
"He read his keys pretty well and he got some good runs," Auburn cornerback Jerraud Powers said. "What hurt us was our lack of pressure and his ability to tuck and run. He hurt us a lot on third down."
Jerraud Powers' big play
All was not bad for Auburn's Jerraud Powers, a Decatur High graduate.
He came up with one of Auburn's bigger plays of the day, recovering a Stafford fumble and returning it 8 yards. Auburn scored five plays later, cutting the Georgia lead to 30-15 with 4:27 to play in the third quarter.
"I looked up and saw Stafford take off like he had all day," Powers said. "I tried to hustle to make a stop. I thought he was going to cut it back from me. I saw Will (Herring) come from behind and strip it. I was in the right position at the right time."
Two Auburn recruits and two notable prospects attended Saturday's game, including recent commitment Kodi Burns, a quarterback from Arkansas, and Chris Slaughter, a receiver who signed with the Tigers in 2006 but went to prep school for a year.
Also on official visits to Auburn were Baton Rouge, La., defensive end Frank Alexander and Longwood, Fla., defensive tackle Ian Williams. In all, 21 recruits, including five who have committed to Auburn, were at Saturday's game.
Noteworthy Linebacker Will Herring tied an Auburn record for consecutive starts with 47. Jeno James accomplished the feat from 1996-99. Auburn's Kenny Irons broke the career 2,000-yard mark with 49 yards against the Bulldogs. He's the 12th Auburn player to do that.
— Bradley Handwerger, DAILY Sports Writer
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