Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Tale of a Tough Quarterback

AUBURN – The book on Brandon Cox’s two-plus years as Auburn’s starting quarterback tells of a classic protagonist – personal struggles with a debilitating illness, talent, flaws, critics and defenders but, ultimately, he perseveres in his own way.
The book’s emerging title? How about, Tale of a Tough Quarterback.
Not to overdramatize things. We have yet to see something like the old NFL Films footage of a helmetless and bloodied Y.A. Tittle on his knees.
Then again, there is the vintage clip of old Vikings quarterback Joe Kapp, wincing and rolling in the ground in Super Bowl IV. Cox had a similar scene Saturday, after taking the second helmet hit on his right shoulder late in the third quarter of Auburn’s 23-13 victory over Kansas State.
Fortunately for Auburn, it happened on the last offensive snap of that possession. A field goal and change of possessions allowed Cox time for the pain to deaden, and he returned to action on Auburn’s next offensive snap.
He’s done that a lot over the last two seasons.
He rolled on the ground, hopped up and hobbled off the field after an LSU lineman landed on his left leg last season, badly spraining his left ankle. After a timeout, he ran back on the field for the next play.
He played on the rest of the season, his lower left leg nearly mummified in tape. He could barely push off of it.
Cox played on after banging his right knee on the turf at Ole Miss, though the bursa sac injury affected the left-hander’s plant leg.
Auburn had to scale back its offense, but he played on because Auburn’s coaches lacked confidence in backup Blake Field.
Cox did the same Saturday. Through five sacks and, we learned this week, fuzziness from absorbing several hits, he played. Through 40 sacks dating back through last season, he has played.
Saturday, Cox persevered to lead Auburn’s drive to the go-ahead touchdown with 2:01 to play, going 5-for-6 for 56 yards and throwing his 3-yard touchdown pass to Gabe McKenzie.
Cox’s 17-for-30, 229-yard performance wasn’t the stuff of fantasy-league quarterbacks. His performances rarely are.
He just picked himself up and improved to 20-5 as a starter.
-- Joe Medley

NOTE: Read more about Cox's wooziness and winning performance in Wednesday's Star.

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