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With nine seconds remaining in the first half Saturday night, Georgia quarterback Joe Cox threw a 9-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Green in the back of the end zone.

The Bulldogs went up 31-23 in their eventual 41-37 win over South Carolina at Sanford Stadium, and that pass would be Cox's favorite of the game.

"It was one of the few spirals I threw all night," he said.

Cox knows he doesn't deliver the prettiest passes and that he doesn't have the size or arm strength of predecessor Matthew Stafford, but his ability to work within those limitations became evident Saturday. In his first career start at home against a defense that did not allow a touchdown in its opener, Cox completed 17 of 24 passes for 201 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

While not a dazzling effort, it was the most efficient performance by a Bulldogs quarterback against South Carolina this decade. Stafford never threw a touchdown pass in three meetings against the Gamecocks, D.J. Shockley had the worst game of his stellar senior year against them, and who can forget Quincy Carter's five-interception game in 2000?

Only David Greene, the most reliable quarterback in program history, had numbers against the Gamecocks that were close.

"Joe is not a lot of flash, and people like flash sometimes, but he's got a lot of substance," coach Mark Richt said. "That can make a big difference for you."

Cox's performance Saturday came after a week in which two Internet sites reported that backup Logan Gray was likely to start against the Gamecocks because Cox was battling a sore shoulder. He admitted last Friday to nerve problems caused by a muscle protecting his rotator cuff, which occurred a day after Richt said Cox was taking Wednesdays off from throwing.

At first, Cox thought the rumors of him being replaced were funny. Then they became a nuisance.

"I was getting tired of people asking me what was going on," he said. "It got to the point where I couldn't even get back to people to let them know that everything was fine."

Leading up to the Sept. 5 opener at Oklahoma State, Cox developed a virus that caused him to take a later flight to Oklahoma City. He was not at full strength against the Cowboys and it showed, as he completed 13 of 27 passes for 129 yards with an interception after leading the Bulldogs to an opening touchdown.

Cox lost nine pounds, which he's yet to put back on, and he's hoping for a week of preparation for Arkansas without any adventure.

"Joe is a pretty mature kid, and he's seen just about everything," Richt said. "He hasn't experienced necessarily everything, but he's seen it all through Matthew. His goal is to be a coach, and I really think he's done a fine job of staying focused and concerning himself with the things he can control."

Said Cox: "I'm sure there will be something else that comes up."

Odds and ends

Georgia's home game Sept. 26 against Arizona State will be televised by ESPNU with a 7 p.m. kickoff. ... The Bulldogs have scored all six times they've reached the red zone this season. ... Georgia's Brandon Boykin was the SEC's special teams player of the week, and teammate Clint Boling was lineman of the week. Boykin returned a kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and had 187 total return yards, while Boling graded out at 94 percent and had 10 knockdown blocks.

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