Cox, coaches say offensive line not a problem
By Ross Dellenger
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AUBURN — Sore shoulder, thigh bruise, aching neck.
"Nothing too serious," Brandon Cox said after reeling off a list of postgame blues.
Auburn's starting quarterback peeled himself off Pat Dye Field countless times during a come-from-behind 23-13 win against Kansas State a week ago. The Wildcats attacked Cox with a defense that loaded the box and blitzed relentlessly.
He still felt the affects two days later.
"It's part of the game," Cox said Monday as he sat in Auburn's athletic building. "I got my bell rung pretty good."
Cox isn't expecting a walk in the park Saturday when No. 17 Auburn (1-0) meets South Florida (1-0) in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
He knows the Bulls have watched film of the opener, just like Kansas State watched film of January's Cotton Bowl, when Nebraska used a frenzied defensive package to send Cox to the ground on numerous occasions.
"I'm sure after watching the film — like everybody does when they show a blitz that works ... everybody does it," he said.
Last week the Birmingham native was sacked five times. He was pressured throughout the game as Auburn's young, inexperienced offensive line folded to K-State's eight- and nine-man fronts.
But Cox was in no mood to blame just the line. He put the brunt of the sacks on himself, and so did coaches.
"Going back and watching the film, there were definitely some checks that I could have made that would have helped myself out," he said. "There were some blitzes they brought we had gone over in practice that didn't register at the time."
They didn't register because Cox said he was "a little fuzzy" among the constant pounding he took, but blame can also be placed on a lackluster running game, which is missing its centerpiece: suspended tailback Brad Lester.
The Tigers tallied 62 yards on 37 rushes, forcing Cox to attempt 30 passes, a high number for him.
The third-year starter has attempted more passes only three other times in his Auburn career. Two of those games ended in losses.
Offensive coordinator Al Borges called much of his quarterback's performance "un-Cox-like."
The coach said Cox held on to the ball for too long in some instances and didn't make the right play-changes at the line of scrimmage, something he is known for doing well.
"He told me that it was very unlike me," Cox said.
"He said he was thinking, one, I was just banged up or, two, I had got my bell rung. It was just hard to stay focused."
Cox said that "sometimes a couple of blocks were missed" by the line or a running back, but he still puts much of the blame squarely on his sore shoulders.
On that last drive, everything changed. Blocks were being made, giving the quarterback ample time to throw the ball. Cox's once-scrambled head cleared.
He completed five of his last six attempts, including the corner pass to tight end Gabe McKenzie in the end zone for the go-ahead score.
Borges gave up on the run and play-action passes during that last drive.
He let Cox drop straight back in the pocket and fire away. Borges said his offense consists of about 75 percent run plays and play-action passes and about 25 percent direct drop-back passes, but he shied away from that late.
"It had reached the point in the game where I couldn't do that anymore," Borges said. "We were going to shift gears and try to protect him with solid protections, and we were going to throw the ball."
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