Cox ready to erase memories of loss to Georgia
By Ross Dellenger
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AUBURN — As Brandon Cox walked off Pat Dye Field following maybe the worst performance in his Auburn career, he could think of just one thing: Oh, no, I have to watch that on film now.
"It's definitely something I didn't want to relive," Cox said.
But that was not up to him.
A day after Auburn's meltdown against Georgia last season, Cox watched a replay of the game during Auburn's mandatory film session and vowed to never see it again.
"That's the only time I've seen it," said Cox, who completed four passes and threw four interceptions in Georgia's 37-15 win over then-No. 5 Auburn. "We came out and got embarrassed."
A team that had lost four of its previous five games whipped the Tigers. Georgia entered that rainy Saturday in November with losses to Vanderbilt and Kentucky.
The Bulldogs walked off that soggy field with a victory that began a three-game win streak.
On the flip side, the loss took Auburn out of the race for the SEC West crown. It ended any chance of the Tigers getting an at-large berth into a BCS bowl, and it embarrassed everyone wearing burnt orange and navy blue.
"A little tiny part of me has never recovered from that game," offensive coordinator Al Borges said. "It really hurt us. It hurt our season. I blame myself as much as anybody for it."
Borges' offense barely broke 170 yards and converted none of its third downs on that nightmarish day, as the Bulldogs took a 30-7 lead at halftime.
Cox spent much of the day on his back. He was sacked four times and passed for 35 yards — the lowest output of his three-year starting career.
"He'll tell you it's probably the worst game he's played," Borges said.
The sting of the loss trickled down through the entire team. From coaches to players, everyone was disgusted. Offensive line coach Hugh Nall said, "When I am 90 years old, that one will still make me mad."
But the No. 18 Tigers (7-3, 4-2 SEC) have their chance at redemption Saturday. They can knock No. 10 Georgia (7-2, 4-2) out of the nation's elite. They could all but eliminate the Bulldogs from a BCS bowl or an SEC championship. They could, well, ruin Georgia's season.
"I just want to ... get some payback," Cox said.
But, with a win, Georgia could again dash Auburn's hopes of getting to a BCS bowl game.
Despite having three losses, there is a scenario where Auburn could find itself in New Orleans for the Sugar Bowl — playing the winner of the Atlantic Coast Conference a week before the BCS championship game.
Several things must happen for the Tigers to do that, and the first is that they must win their remaining games. Auburn also needs LSU to remain the No. 2 team in the BCS and go to the BCS title game.
To do that, LSU must beat its remaining opponents — at home against Louisiana Tech and Arkansas and at Ole Miss — who have a combined record of 13-15. LSU would then need to win the SEC Championship Game. While LSU plays for the national title, the BCS would need to take an at-large team from the SEC.
Auburn, at 9-3 under the scenario, would be one of possibly three SEC teams with three losses. Others include Georgia, Florida, Kentucky and Tennessee.
Georgia and Kentucky still have to play each other, eliminating one team. And whichever team reaches the SEC title game would suffer a fourth defeat, losing to LSU under the scenario. It would be among three 9-3 SEC teams for that at-large BCS spot.
So, one can see that payback isn't the only motivation. Although it does help.
"These last two (games) are the biggest ones on the schedule," Cox said. "This one, for me, is personal."
No. 18 Auburn (7-3, 4-2 SEC)
at No. 10 Georgia (7-2, 4-2)
When: Saturday, 2:30 p.m.
Where: Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga.
Line: Georgia by 2.
TV/radio: CBS will televise the game, and WHNT-19 will carry it locally. The radio broadcast can be heard on FM-106.1, FM-95.9, FM-98.3 and AM-1230.
Players to watch: Offensive coordinator Al Borges said earlier in the week that itís difficult to hit long passes against Georgiaís secondary. Expect Borges to use the short passing game — as Auburn did so well against Florida. In that case, quarterback Brandon Cox will need to be more accurate than he was a year ago against Georgia when the Birmingham native threw four interceptions.
No doubt that the UGA player to watch is freshman tailback Knowshon Moreno. He has picked up at least 150 yards rushing in each of his last three outings.
Key matchup: Auburnís defense has proven it can stop some of the best running backs in the nation (remember Arkansas), but Moreno is on a roll since taking over as the starter over Thomas Brown, who should return to the lineup this week. Can the Tigers slow the duo enough to put pressure on quarterback Matthew Stafford, who completed 14 of 20 pass attempts against Auburn last season?
Weather: Sunny, a high of 70 degrees and a low of 38. No chance of rain.
Last meeting: Georgia 37, Auburn 15 on Nov. 11, 2006.
Prediction: Georgia 24, Auburn 17.
Ross Dellenger, Daily Sports Writer
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