When Auburn’s quarterback made the first start of his career, he was a third-year sophomore not a true freshman like Stafford, and it still wasn’t much fun. Cox threw four interceptions in that game, a 23-14 loss to Georgia Tech to open the 2005 season.
“It definitely gets a lot easier,” said Cox. “I know anytime I see freshman or sophomore quarterbacks making their first start, I can definitely remember what I went through and know what they’re going through.”
Cox rebounded to throw just four more interceptions that season, and this year is sixth in the SEC in passing average (191.5 yards per game) with 11 touchdowns and five interceptions. He will lead the No. 5 Tigers (9-1, 5-1 SEC) against the Bulldogs (6-4, 3-4) Saturday at 12:30 p.m. in Jordan-Hare Stadium.
“It comes with experience and taking the reps in the games,” Cox said. “You can do it over and over in practice, but it’s nothing compared to what happens in the game. You learn from it and you make mistakes, but that’s the only way you can learn is to make mistakes.”
Unlike Stafford, who has been thrown straight into the fire, Cox redshirted in 2003 and threw just 34 passes as a backup in 2004.
“I got to be the backup to Jason (Campbell) and watch him and learn from him,” Cox said. “I wouldn’t have had it any other way. I learned a lot from him. If I had had to play my freshman year, it would have been very difficult. Just playing as a sophomore was tough enough.”
Cox has completed 63.8 percent of his passes this year, which will rate fourth in school history if he can keep up that pace the rest of the season. He has been most impressive on third downs, Georgia coach Mark Richt said.
“He’s been uncanny on third down attempts,” Richt said. “They’re (43.8 percent) on third downs this year, and it’s really been Brandon making plays for them when he needs to He’s done great job of managing games and being highly accurate. Brandon is a guy who has done nothing but win for them.”
A fourth down play is why Cox always will be remembered by Georgia fans. Last season, he completed a 62-yard pass to Devin Aromashodu to set up John Vaughn’s game-winning 20-yard field goal with six seconds remaining. Cox rates that 31-30 victory as the second-favorite game of his career, just behind beating Alabama 28-18 at the end of the season.
“That’s definitely one of the wildest games I’ve ever played in,” he said.
Cox is confident Stafford can survive a slow start, just like he did.
“You have to make those mistakes to learn,” he said. “It just depends on what type of guy he is. If he learns form his mistakes and can put it behind him, it could turn out to be a good thing for him.”
Auburn by the Numbers
Rushing 34th 160 ypg
Rushing defense 41st 117.1 ypg allowed
Passing 60th 196.2 ypg
Passing defense 15th 158.4 ypg allowed
Scoring 43rd 26.8 ppg
Scoring defense 4th 11.5 ppg allowed