Together they fashioned one of the unlikeliest offensive performances of the 2005 college football season, one that garners Borges the honor as Rivals.com's National Offensive Coordinator of the Year.
Auburn wasn't supposed to be anywhere near this good offensively (15th in scoring, 27th in total offense nationally), not after losing its entire starting backfield to the first round of the NFL draft. Players such as Ronnie Brown, Cadillac Williams and Jason Campbell are irreplaceable.
But Borges didn't panic. He liked what he'd seen in the spring, especially from Cox. The redshirt sophomore had been less than spectacular, but between the final scrimmage and Auburn's annual 'A' game he hadn't thrown an interception either.
"Replacing your quarterback and tailbacks, those are very high-profile positions, especially QB," Borges told Rivals.com. "The quicker he comes around the better off you'll have a chance to be.
"He (Cox) had one bad game and never played another bad one. He keeps you in games, and he did a wonderful job of managing the offense. He learned a lot watching Jason (Campbell). He was very composed, and he learned from his mistakes."
Most of his mistakes came in Auburn's season-opening home loss to Georgia Tech. It's the "one bad game" to which Borges referred. Cox completed only 22 of 44 passes and threw four interceptions against the Yellow Jackets. Auburn lost 23-14. He had just three interceptions over the Tigers' last 10 games.
"The big thing about Brandon, you just look at his skill level and he's very accurate with time to throw," Borges told Rivals.com. "We should have run more in that game and taken some pressure off him.
"We talked a lot after the first game about don't make bad play a disaster. Better to throw it incomplete. He processed information really well after that."
Before turning Campbell from a much-maligned haphazard passer into a first-round pick, Borges perhaps was best known for fashioning the UCLA offense that made Cade McKnown a first-round pick.
Borges said coaching up the QB is one of the main reasons he's in the profession.
"It's certainly one aspect of coaching that I enjoy the most, getting into his brain without scaring him," Borges told Rivals.com. "You want to keep him aggressive, even after he makes a mistake. The last thing I want to do is scare him out of being aggressive."
Cox came back in his next game to complete 12-of-18 passes for 202 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He stayed aggressive and the Tigers did too, going on to finish 9-2 to earn a date against Wisconsin in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 2.
Borges also watched over as the Tigers developed another 1,000-yard rusher in Kenny Irons and as Cox spread the ball around as five receivers caught at least 19 passes this season.
"We really believed before the season that we had a team that could be very good," Borges told Rivals.com. "To say we have first-round draft picks, well, probably not, but we had talent that just lacked some experience. But as the year went on they grew more comfortable and more confident and played like we knew they could."
Al Borges' Coaching Experience
Salinas High School, Calif. (Assistant Coach)
Pleasant Valley High School, Calif. (Assistant Coach)
Portland State (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
Boise State(Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
Oregon (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
UCLA (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
California (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
Indiana (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
Auburn (Offensive Coordinator/Quarterbacks)
Gary Crowton, Oregon: A Ducks team picked to finish in the middle of the pack in the Pac-10 instead went 10-1 and put up some impressive numbers under the tutelage of the former BYU head coach. Oregon's passing game ranked seventh in the country, and the Ducks were ninth in scoring. They also managed to keep it together offensively and win their last three games without starting QB Kellen Clemens, who went down with a broken ankle in Game 7.
Greg Davis, Texas: Davis' offense was virtually unstoppable behind junior quarterback Vince Young. The Longhorns led the nation in scoring at nearly 51 points per game, and were third nationally in rushing offense and total offense. Davis may have done his best work with Young, turning him into a dual threat who actually led the nation in passing efficiency.
Galen Hall, Penn State: The first-year coordinator took a moribund offense and turned it into a unit that finished 12th in the nation in scoring and 13th in rushing. He also did so much for QB Michael Robinson that the senior signal-caller was named Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Year as the Nittany Lions went 10-1.
Lane Kiffin, USC: Taking over for the legendary Norm Chow, the Trojans offense didn't miss a beat under Kiffin. USC finished atop the nation in total offense by a ridiculous margin (nearly 70 yards per game). It also finished in the top five in scoring (second), rushing (fourth) and passing (fifth).
Rivals.com's National Defensive Coordinator of the Year will be announced Wednesday.
Rivals.com's National Coach of the Year will be announced on Thursday.