This week, Mark Richt said, he tried to convince quarterback Joe Cox to keep the trend of calamities going by sporting an eye patch while meeting with reporters.
Alas, Cox didn’t follow through on the prank, and he admits, he’s looking forward to a calm week leading up to Georgia’s date with Arkansas on Saturday.
“It’s definitely been interesting to see how crazy it can get,” Cox said of the numerous rumors that have flooded the airwaves and message boards in advance of each of his first two starts of the season. “But it hasn’t been something that’s been a distraction. We’ve all laughed about it.”
The quarterback may be able to laugh now, but his transition from four-year backup to the center of the spotlight as Georgia’s most unlikely magnet for controversy hasn’t been the most enjoyable of rides.
Two weeks ago, Cox came down with a virus just three days before Georgia’s opener against Oklahoma State. He was tested for the swine flu, missed a day of practice, took a separate flight to the game and required an IV for fluids just hours before kickoff. All of that was prelude to a lackluster 15-of-30 passing performance that included two turnovers.
The poor outing put Cox on the defensive the following week, and when news broke that he had missed Wednesday’s practice session due to an injury and would be benched in favor of backup Logan Gray, the reaction from fans ranged from enthusiasm to utter confusion.
As it turned out, the injury was one Cox has managed since February, he said, and the day of from throwing will be a regular routine this season. The starting job was still his, and he set out to prove he deserved it.
“He handled all the things coming at him,” wide receiver Tavarres King said. “He came out confident in himself, came out confident in us, and you saw what happened. He balled out.”
Cox led Georgia to its first win of the season while completing 17-of-24 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns, a performance that helped quiet a number of his critics, even if he wasn’t completely satisfied with the results.
Cox wasn’t sporting an eye patch Tuesday, but he did have the ring finger taped on his left hand. He jammed the finger Saturday against South Carolina after attempting to tackle linebacker Eric Norwood in the end zone following an interception.
“I guess that’s what I get for throwing a pick six,” he said.
Beyond the interception, however, last week’s win felt pretty good for Cox.
For nearly four years, he said, no one wanted to talk to him. Now, he’s been the center of attention on a weekly basis, and he’s just happy to finally have a chance to talk about a victory rather than a controversy.
“It’s always good to get the train rolling,” Cox said. “Momentum is tough to get going, but after you get that first game you’ve got something to look back on and build on.”
Cox isn’t worried about his grasp on the starting job or the soreness in his shoulder either. The injury, he said, bothers him more when he’s picking up a bookbag or waking up from a nap than it does when he’s hurling a football downfield.
“When I throw, it doesn’t hurt during my throwing motion, and it’s definitely not something I think about during a game,” Cox said.
The shoulder injury won’t be getting any better, he said, but it’s not expected to get any worse, either. It’s simply another obstacle he’ll have to deal with – and he has dealt with plenty during his time at Georgia already.
Four years on the bench didn’t deter him, and neither has two weeks of swirling controversy. The win over South Carolina is a nice respite, but Cox knows more adversity looms down the road.
In the meantime, Cox is enjoying what he hopes will remain a quiet week for him, a welcome reward for putting Georgia in the win column for the first time this year.
“Joe put a lot of expectations on himself,” lineman Clint Boling said. “A lot of people did. He was disappointed after the first game’s result and now he’s just glad that he got this first win under his belt. We all are.”