It would be tougher to play a better game than Joe Cox did last week, joining the elite group of Georgia quarterbacks who have thrown five touchdowns in a game.
So I asked another member of that club, former Dogs great, David Greene, what advice he’d have for Cox to avoid a letdown after his big game against Arkansas.
“I’d tell him to just ice his shoulder and do what he did last week,” Greene said with a grin. “Joe is playing some really good football right now.”
Especially, Greene, said, when you consider the situation Cox was put in after backing up Matthew Stafford for three years. “It’s hard to fill the shoes of the most talented quarterback to ever set foot on this campus. But Joe has clearly answered the challenge. He’s doing an outstanding job.”
Greene, one of the most beloved UGA QBs and now retired from the NFL and working on the Georgia football pregame and postgame radio broadcasts, was the featured speaker at today’s Lunch With the Dawgs hosted by voice of the Dogs Scott Howard at the Melting Point in Athens.
Greene noted that the biggest challenge facing the Dogs as a team right now is reducing the number of turnovers and penalties. He recalled that when he was playing for Mark Richt, if he threw an interception, “I was running the stands five times for every pick,” so he knows the current Dogs desperately want to eliminate the problem.
“Trust me, Coach Richt does put a big-time emphasis on protecting the ball,” Greene said. And, he noted, “at least the things we’re messing up on are things that can be corrected.”
Looking at Saturday’s game against Arizona State, Greene said when you think of the Sun Devils, you think of the passing game, and with rain forecast for game time, “I think that’s going to play in our favor. I think we’ll be able to run the ball [in the rain] better than they will. If it pours down rain, I’ll be one happy camper. I know Joe Cox won’t be. No quarterback likes to throw a wet ball. But I think the rain will help Georgia.”
Greene said the South Carolina game was the first Georgia game “I’ve ever really been to as a fan. I told a friend, it’s a good thing when I was a player I didn’t know all the stuff that goes on, or I’d have been really nervous. It’s incredible how fired up and excited everyone is.”
So far, he said, this season “has been fun to watch. We’ve turned the ball over three times every game and yet we put 52 points on the board last week. That’s incredible.”
Talking about his own playing career at UGA, Greene singled out four games as high points: the 2001 win in Knoxville, the 2002 game at Auburn, and the LSU and Florida games in 2004, his senior year.
He said the 2001 battle with the Vols was “my first away game as a quarterback. I was 18 and too stupid to know what I was going into, so I wasn’t nervous.” That is, until during a TV timeout when teammate Jon Stinchcomb, one of the offensive linemen, said to him, “Hey, Greenie, look how big those guys are.”
On the “hobnail boot” pass to Verron Haynes, he said, Richt instructed him to throw it to the open fullback if UT had two safeties and, if not, to throw it into the stands. When Tennessee lined up with two safeties, Greene said he was excited and also extremely nervous. But “in my four years there was not an easier play.”
The touchdown pass against Auburn that put Georgia in the 2002 SEC championship game was “one of the most exciting moments of my life,” Greene said. But when the play was called for Johnson, “I knew if I just threw it up there in a decent spot, he’d go up and get it.”
Greene said that contrary to what he and all the other players always tell the media, certain games do get circled on the calendar, and for him one of them was LSU in 2004, because Nick Saban’s national championship team had beaten the Dogs twice the previous season. “That’s awful to lose to someone twice in one year. I wanted to beat LSU at home worse than anybody.”
And then there was the win over Florida that season. Another game he said he had circled. It was “so gratifying, a good feeling” to finally beat the Gators, he said.
Before his talk, Greene stopped by to chat briefly with my brother Jon, who knows him through the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, and said he was particularly pleased that his pal Matt Stinchcomb is being inducted Saturday into UGA’s Circle of Honor, the highest tribute paid to Bulldog athletes and coaches.
“That’s quite an honor,” Greene said, “but Matt deserves it. He’s a class act.”