AUBURN, Ala. — It was tough for Brandon Cox to watch Auburn’s 14-6 loss to Clemson on Saturday night, but he has a message for Auburn fans: The season isn’t over yet.
“It’s not like we just were going against a team we should have blown them away,” the former Auburn quarterback told SEC Country, taking into account Clemson’s “tremendous” defense. “But to have 117 yards of total offense, it’s inexcusable.”
Cox has a unique perspective on new starting quarterback Jarrett Stidham and Auburn’s early offensive struggles this season. The Trussville, Ala., native came to Auburn as the state of Alabama’s Mr. Football and a top 20-ranked quarterback by ESPN.
He followed Jason Campbell as starter after Auburn’s undefeated 2004 season and came out looking to impress when Auburn opened against Georgia Tech in 2005. Instead, Cox tossed 4 interceptions and his team lost 44-22 in Jordan-Hare Stadium. After the disappointing start, Cox would finish 19-5 as a starter. He ranks second in Auburn history in passing efficiency (137.90) and threw at least 1 touchdown pass in 20 of his 24 career starts.
So it didn’t surprise Cox that Auburn fans were quick to question Stidham.
“No, not at all,” Cox said. “That’s fans being fans. I’ve been in his shoes before. He came in with a lot of high praise and people really put him high up on a pedestal. People that have seen him in practice really think highly of him and it’s unfortunate that the guy gets so much preseason hype and has to live up to it. It’s part of the game. Just need to step back from the ledge and let the season unfold.”
The biggest task, at least in Cox’s eyes, is for Auburn’s offensive line to slow opponents’ pass rush. The defensive lines Auburn will face might not match that of Clemson’s, but the one in Baton Rouge, for starters, will mirror it.
The blame wasn’t all on the offensive line, though. Stidham needs to make decisions in the pocket quicker. Cox has little doubt, especially after hearing such high praise from so many, that Stidham is the guy to turn things around.
Despite not having played in almost two years, Cox advises fans to “be patient and let the guys work.” The team will look to forget the Week 2 loss and return to the midseason form from 2016.
Stidham’s abilities have been admired for months, but perhaps a bigger point of emphasis has been made of his leadership.
That, in Cox’s eyes, is still the case.
“I think that showed in how he handled media and his teammates after the game and even through the game,” Cox said. “I know he was frustrated. I know the offensive line was frustrated with giving up 11 sacks. Not all of them were the offensive line’s fault. Not all of them were Jarrett’s fault.
”Just keep your head up and they have a long way to go. They have to stick with each other and the best thing they can do is get in the film room and learn from their mistakes. Jarrett did a great job of keeping the morale and staying positive.”