On the first play of Appalachian State football’s first drive Homecoming weekend, sophomore quarterback Taylor Lamb took the snap from the shotgun in the rainy, fog-covered weather. Lamb proceeded with the familiar approach of the Mountaineers offense, handing the ball to star running back Marcus Cox.
“The play was supposed to head outside but the defense overflowed,” Cox said. “They double-pursued it, there was a big open cutback lane, I cut back, and after I broke that one-arm tackle, that was it.”
After he found the open lane, Cox was off to the races for a 59-yard touchdown run and into App State football history, becoming the sixth running back in school history to rush over 3,000 yards. His 178 yards against the Cowboys was the seventh straight time he rushed for 100 yards. Although his streak was snapped the next week with a 76-yard performance against Georgia State, Cox bounced back for 122 yards against ULM. For his career, he’s rushed for 100-plus yards 19 times in 30 career games.
Accomplishing a milestone of 3,000 rushing yards, Cox puts a lot of faith in his offensive line to make it possible. “It all starts with the big guys up front,” he said. “As they go we go, that’s the motto as a running back group.”
Those 19 career games with over 100 rushing yards for Cox are tied for third with Kevin Richardson (2004-07). At this rate, Cox is on pace to push aside Richardson’s leading rushing record of 4,804 yards, already at 3,352 yards. However, even with another year and some change left in Cox’s collegiate career, individual numbers are not what matters.
“I just want to do all I can to help this team get two bowl wins,” Cox said. “It’s our first year being bowl eligible so I just want to do the best I can be the first Appalachian State team to win a bowl game.”
Stu Holt, a first-year running back coach for the Mountaineers, was impressed by Cox early on. He liked his demeanor and said he thought he had a “mature approach to his job and what he needed to do on and off the field.”
Holt also emphasized Cox’s characteristics of maturity and leadership.
“He doesn’t put himself in positions where he’s doing the wrong thing,” Holt said. “He leads by example and he’s always locked in and paying attention to what we’re doing in practice and where he’s supposed to be off the field.”
In Holt’s 19-year coaching career, he’s been able to work with many players, but what separates the good from the great is how sensible and in control they are.
Holt said, “What really separates the ones who are really, really successful and the ones that aren’t is their maturity level and what they put into it.”
The maturity level and seriousness of Cox helps keep his teammates in check while also providing a good example to follow.
“He’s like another coach,” said sophomore running back Terrence Upshaw. “Seeing him every day helps me to get better because that’s my competition and he’s also my teammate so he pushes me to get better.”
Cox has recorded more than 1,000 rushing yards in each of his two seasons while gradually increasing those yards as well. He credits his offensive line heavily for his success while head coach Scott Satterfield says it’s his attention to detail that has helped him over time.
“When he came in, he was a good player right off the bat,” he said. “But he understands what we’re trying to do offensively.”
What makes Cox more lethal than a year ago is the ascension of his all-around game.
“He can catch the ball out of the backfield for us and he’s also really good at protection,” Satterfield said. “So he is a complete back and I think that’s the thing he’s gotten better at.”
Satterfield also touched on the fact that experience in the backfield has helped Cox gain a better feel for the game and the Mountaineers offense. He touched on the same first play of the game against Wyoming, which was a significant moment in Cox’s career.
“Maybe a year ago, he would have tried to get outside,” he said. “But he understood that everyone was flowing and he cut back and ended up running for a touchdown.”
Story by: Matt Krombach, Intern Sports Reporter