JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Georgia’s loss Saturday was all Joe Cox’s fault — just ask him.
“I lost the game with three picks,” said the Bulldogs’ embattled quarterback. “That score does not reflect how we played, how we moved the ball. It’s the truth. Any time you turn the ball over that many times and give people chances to score, a good team’s going to score. And they did. That’s why we got beat.”
Cox, a fifth-year senior and first-year starter, waited a long time for his shot at Florida. He got it Saturday in Jacksonville, but it didn’t go the way he had dreamed.
The fiery Charlotte, N.C. native, the redhead that his teammates all love as a person and a leader, threw three interceptions, helping squelch any hope the Bulldogs had at making a run at the nation’s No. 1 team.
“It’s tough. You work so hard for a moment, and when it doesn’t go your way, especially with everything you put into it, it’s as bad as you would imagine,” Cox said.
“Not a lot of people have to deal with that and know what it feels like. And it’s not just me. It’s all these seniors. And all these young guys too. This isn’t the way that Georgia should play football. I feel bad for the whole senior class, being our last shot against Florida. And I feel bad for everybody in our program. We know how we’re supposed to play, and, so far, we haven’t clicked at all and gotten done what we were supposed to do.”
After waiting behind D.J. Shockley and Matthew Stafford, 2009 was Cox’s year to shine. He has had high points — he was a national offensive player of the week for a 375-yard, five-touchdown performance against Arkansas. He led a similarly impressive aerial attack against South Carolina.
But he also has thrown 12 interceptions and is the figurehead of a Georgia team that is now 4-4 for the first time under coach Mark Richt. His starting job has become a regular topic of discussion for people outside the program.
Those on the field with him, though, still believe in him.
“He has been taking on the leadership of this program since January,” Richt said. “I think men, in general, want respect … Joe is a very respected man in our locker room and in our program. And even afterward, you could tell how badly he hurt about this thing. I can’t tell you how many guys, offense, defense, freshmen, sophomore, juniors, seniors, came up to him and wanted to let him know how they felt about him.”
Cox’s name probably won’t evoke warm fuzzies from Georgia fans, especially after Saturday’s performance. The cries for Logan Gray to take the reins still will be there. A clamoring for the start of the Aaron Murray era under center aren’t going anywhere either. When asked about the future of Georgia’s quarterback position Saturday, even Richt was more candid than usual about a possible change.
“I don’t know the answer to that,” Richt said. “I think we’re going to look at the big picture at all positions and just see what we think we need to do.”