JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — After it was over, Georgia quarterback Joe Cox took the blame. After throwing three costly interceptions, there was little doubt he deserved to shoulder a fair portion of the burden. But in the wake of a demoralizing 41-17 loss to Florida, head coach Mark Richt isn’t ready to make any decisions about the future of Georgia’s quarterback position.
“It’s not good to make decisions within minutes after an emotional ballgame,” Richt said. “It’s always good to settle your spirit, settle your mind and look at the entire picture before you make any kind of decision. But we’ll do that.”
That doesn’t exactly mean Cox’s job is safe. The fifth-year senior completed just 11-of-20 passes for 165 yards, and one of his picks set up a crucial Florida touchdown to start the second half.
The numbers were bad overall for Cox, but they were dreadful in the second half. Cox had completed six of his first eight throws but finished 5-of-12 down the stretch before being lifted for backup Logan Gray in the fourth quarter.
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Still, offensive coordinator Mike Bobo was quick to dish out blame to more than just his starting quarterback, but didn’t rule out a potential change at the position.
“We’ve got to address the problem of what we’re doing offensively,” Bobo said. “That’s not just Joe Cox, that’s everybody, coaches included, and see what our next step is and what’s the best move. You can’t turn the ball over like we’re doing. There’s no possible way of winning football games with our turnover margin like it is, and when you do it against a great football team, the result is usually something like tonight.”
The turnover margin now stands at 21 giveaways and six takeaways for the season, with Cox responsible for 13 of those turnovers, 12 via interceptions. He has completed at least one pass to the other team in all eight games so far this season.
Despite the problems, Richt said Cox has retained the confidence of his teammates throughout.
“Joe is a very respected man in our locker room and our program, and you could tell how badly he hurt about this one,” Richt said. “I can’t tell you how many guys — offense, defense, freshmen, juniors, sophomores — came up to him and wanted to let them know how they felt about him.”
Regardless of the respect Cox may have in the locker room, however, Richt said the decisions on personnel — including at quarterback — will eventually come down to performance.
On that front, Cox has struggled, but he may still be the best answer. Gray has thrown just seven passes this season, completing only one, and he had his pass against Florida intercepted and returned for a touchdown.
“I think we’re going to look at the big picture at all positions and just see what we think we need to do,” Richt said about the quarterbacks. “But if we believe Joe gives us the best chance to finish out this season with the most success then that’s what we’re going to do.”
Richt likes this O lineup
Georgia opened the game with its fifth different lineup in eight games on the offensive line, but this is one Richt said has a potential to stick.
Clint Boling moved from right tackle to left tackle, with Cordy Glenn moving from tackle to left guard and Chris Davis and Josh Davis handling the right side of the line. The move seemed to pay dividends in the running game, with Georgia rushing for 121 yards in the game — among its best performances of the year on the ground against one of the tougher defensive units in the country.
“It was pretty effective,” Richt said of the lineup. “Florida’s defense is one of the better defenses in America, and we did run the ball well. We protected well early on when we still had our run-pass mix where we could keep them off balance a little bit.”
Georgia did allow three sacks of its quarterbacks, a season high against a line that had allowed just six sacks all season. But the boost to the running game was crucial, led by a productive day from freshman Washaun Ealey, who finished with 70 yards on 17 carries.
“Moving them around (on the line), that helped a lot. I knew they were going to block real hard,” Ealey said. “The line has been doing a good job, and I just tried to keep hitting the holes hard and making plays.”
Richt said line coach Stacy Searels would have the final say after watching film, but he expected a similar lineup going forward.
“I liked the combination,” Richt said. “I’m not sure how Coach Searels will feel about it when it’s all said and done, but there’s a good chance it’ll stay that way.”