October 6, 2009

Cox keeping his cool

Joe Cox said he knows that criticism comes with the territory when it comes to playing quarterback for a big-time college football program like Georgia.

The key is to not let the words of frustrated fans bother him.

"That kind of thing just comes with the position," Cox said. "There's a lot of people out there who thing if things aren't going right, you put in a new quarterback and that's going to change the problem. Hearing that doesn't bother me at all."

Cox understands why fans might be upset.

Georgia's offense, like its defense and special teams has been inconsistent at best. Even head coach Mark Richt would agree with that.

When asked to describe his team's identity through five games, Richt simply shrugged.

"I guess no one has an identity until they are consistently playing something where you could define that team to say this is what we do well. Right now we've not been consistent offensively, defensively or in the kicking game quite frankly," he said. "I feel like we are gaining a lot of positive momentum defensively. Some of our special teams have played outstanding and a couple has struggled. Offensively, we've pretty much run the gamut of emotions and productivity. Again, I guess the one word I'm looking for more than anything else is a more consistent effort all the way around."

So would Cox.

The fifth-year senior enters Saturday's game in Knoxville as the league's third-rated passer (241.8 yards per game) behind Arkansas' Ryan Mallett (279 ypg) and Chris Todd of Auburn (242.5 ypg).

However, in terms of passing efficiency, Cox is a little further down the list, ranking seventh with a passing efficiency rating of 146.

As a team, Georgia ranks 10th in the SEC and 86th nationally in total offense with 340.6 yards per game.

"I'd like to be 5-0 and score 50 points a game, but we play in the SEC and it's not going to be like that every game," Cox said. "It hasn't been that way since I've been here. We haven't blown out anybody even when our offense was hitting on all cylinders all the time. That's just football. You're going have games where you struggle and you're going to have teams that stop you. The bottom line is though; typically we have been able to bounce back from bad things that have happened."

Saturday afternoon's game at Neyland Stadium will certainly qualify as that.

Although they lost to LSU, Georgia (3-2, 2-1) still technically controls its own destiny as far as the Eastern Division is concerned. Unfortunately, there can't be any more slipups.

That includes the upcoming game against the Vols (2-3, 0-2), who rank fifth in the league in rushing defense giving up just 114.4 yards per game. His six interceptions are also the most in the league.

But Georgia's offensive issues aren't solely quarterback related.

The Bulldogs are last in rushing offense; averaging just 98.8 yards a contest will likely be playing the game without redshirt sophomore Caleb King, who broke his jaw against LSU.

"We've got to be able to run the ball on first and second down so we can get into a manageable position on third down," Cox said. "We weren't able to really do that in the first half but were able to do that some in the second half, so I don't think there's a problem. It's just something we need to focus on in order to get right."

Cox dismissed the notion that many of the issues were due the performance of the offensive line.

"I think they're doing fine. There will always be times when we're not able to block every run play right every single time and go to the house for a touchdown, especially when you play good defenses," he said. "I think there's been emphasis on the O-line having a missed assignment or maybe not holding onto a block long enough and there have been times when a back has missed the hole so there's not one huge problem we're trying to find out. It's just everybody executing the plays instead of having somebody miss something on them on every single time."

But Cox admits that the Bulldogs need to get their running game issues corrected soon.

The more opposing teams stack the box to stop the run, the more difficult it's going to be for the passing game to be effective.

"When people have to be worried about the run it opens up everything else in our offense. We just need to do a better job of executing our run plays so it can affect defenses when we do play-action passes, things like that," Cox said. "We definitely have guys who can get it done. We're not worried about having one guy getting all the carries, we just need to execute with the guys that we have."

Tennessee mostly likely will put that theory to the test.

The Vols are not afraid to bring safeties Eric Berry and Janzen Jackson into the box for extra run support, and will no doubt dare the Bulldogs to beat them by throwing the ball.

"That will be tough because you want to have a balanced game plan," Cox said. "So we've got to find ways to run the ball so it will open up the looks we need to be effective."

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