Oklahoma State cornerback/punt returner Perrish Cox can’t wait for Bedlam.
The Cowboys have a strong chance to qualify for their first BCS bowl in school history with an impressive win Saturday at Oklahoma.
Cox has developed into one of the Big 12’s most productive players. He leads the nation in passes defensed per game (1.9) and ranks among the top five in the Big 12 in punt return average (11.3 yards per return), kickoff return average (21.5 ypr) and interceptions per game (0.4).
We caught up with Cox earlier this week to talk about the development of his team’s defense, his strong recent play and how important it would be to Oklahoma State to make a trip to a BCS bowl during his senior season.
What’s this season been like? Could you have ever imagined your team going 9-2, considering you’ve lost Orie Lemon and Jamal Mosley for the entire season and Dez Bryant and Kendall Hunter for large parts of it?
Perrish Cox: Truthfully, I don’t know if I could have imagined it. But it’s something you have to live with and improve as you go. We might have looked at this team a little differently at the start of the season. But we’ve tried to play hard to overcome everything that’s happened to us.
Where does the resiliency your team has shown this season come from?
PC: I can say that we have good leadership and leaders who know what to say and what to show to young players. We never quit and when you do that, anything can happen. We’ve had a lot of different people step up and make big plays for us. And our leadership from across the board has helped us out.
It’s kind of a little weird the role reversal in this week’s game against Oklahoma. You guys are the one needing a win to get to the BCS game and they are the one needing a win for bowl momentum. Is that a little unusual to you?
PC: It would be huge for us in a lot of ways. First of all, a lot of people look at Oklahoma State as stepbrothers to OU. It would be great for us to leave the seniors with a win over them and get bragging rights.
The Cowboys are going to face the huge challenge of Oklahoma’s nation-best 29-game home winning streak. How do you think you’ll be able to combat that?
PC: I guess their home-field advantage is pretty big and they have a different mind frame and thought to everything when they play there. You battle a little harder when you’re trying to protect your home field. But getting a victory would be pretty big to all of us. It’s something that would really help this program.
You’ve had a strong season, leading the nation in passes broken up. But it seems that some teams have been unwilling to test you in recent weeks. Is that a little disappointing?
PC: It’s kind of hard to stay focused sometimes. I get a laugh sometimes when I don’t get much action. You just play your game, keep trying to do what you have to do. Sometimes, I get a chance to go against the best receiver. I just try to stay focused and stay ready when my time comes around.
PC: It will be a big challenge to go against them because they will have some pretty good receivers. We just have to stay focused on doing what we can to stop them. I think we’ll be ready.
Are you surprised that Oklahoma has struggled so much this season?
PC: It’s shocking to see how their season is going for them and for them to be 6-5. That doesn’t usually happen to them. But our goal was to go out with a bang and get to a BCS bowl. That was one of our bigger goals this season. And we have the chance to do that on Saturday.
You’ve become one of the most accomplished special-teams players in the league. Why have you become so proficient running back kicks?
PC: Special teams are a big part of winning games and I want to be a part of it. You just have to think you can do it. It’s always been a big thing around Oklahoma State and was something they talked to me about before I even got here. That’s been my focus going forward.
Saturday’s game will be your last regular-season game. Does it feel like the time has gone by quickly during your career?
PC: Actually, it does. When I first got here, the seniors all told me it would go by very quickly. As you have your career, you don’t think much about it until it’s about time to leave. I’m about time to leave. It’s kind of sad because it went so quick.
Your new defensive coordinator, Bill Young, has come in and helped transform this defense. What has his presence meant to your team and your defensive unit?
PC: He means a lot and he’s a little different from our old defensive coordinator, Tim Beckman. He was the kind of guy you didn’t want to mess up because there was all that yelling and cursing he would bring. But Coach Young is a little different. He lets us do what we do and play straight. He’ll get on you, but it’s a little more measured. I think we’ve responded to it.
Another big improvement you’ve seen this season has been the work of your defensive line. How has that helped your secondary's play?
PC: Our defensive linemen have never gotten to the quarterback like they have this season. The numbers overall are better for defense across the board and that’s a big reason. We can play comfortable in the back end. In the years before this one, we would have to stay in our coverage from five to eight seconds. That’s tough to play good defense for so long and to stick with the receivers while they are scrambling around. This year our defensive line has stepped up and really taken the pressure off of us.
There’s been a lot of speculation that your team could end up in the Fiesta Bowl if you can win Saturday. What would it be like for you and the seniors to finish your career playing in a game like that?
PC: I would feel like I’ve accomplished almost every goal we’ve set. The main thing we wanted to do is go to the national championship game, or at least a BCS bowl. We had talked about making it to the Big 12 championship, but if we can’t do that, we’d rather go to a BCS game. For my class to be the ones to be able to help accomplish that would really give us something to leave school very proud about.