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Halfway through season, QB still a question

ATHENS - Joe Tereshinski is Georgia's starting quarterback - for at least another week.

After that? Stay tuned.

Halfway through the season, the 16th-ranked Bulldogs are still trying to decide on a clear-cut starter at their most crucial position. Every week, coach Mark Richt goes through an all-too-familiar line of questioning about the quarterback situation after sending out three different starters through the first six games.

''You can't just wave a magic wand and settle it,'' Richt said Tuesday. ''You've got to settle it on the field through their play. We're definitely not 100 percent settled at this point.''

Tereshinski, a senior, will make his second straight start Saturday when Georgia (5-1, 2-1 Southeastern Conference) hosts Vanderbilt, but Richt also plans to give freshman Matthew Stafford some playing time.

''Joe T. has done some good things and some things that were not so good,'' Richt said. ''No one has played well enough to this point where he can be called the man.''

Tereshinski, who spent four years as a little-used backup behind David Greene and D.J. Shockley, appeared to have a firm grip on the job coming into the season. He was the most experienced of the four contenders and had the best grasp of the offense.

But Tereshinski went down with a sprained ankle in the opener against Western Kentucky and missed the next four games. While he was gone, the position became even more muddled.

Stafford started the next three games, but was yanked against lowly Colorado with the Bulldogs trailing 13-0. Redshirt freshman Joe Cox came off the bench to throw a pair of fourth-quarter touchdown passes for a 14-13 win.

That performance earned Cox his first college start at Mississippi, but he completed just 4 of 10 passes for 24 yards. Stafford played the entire second half and was only slightly better (7 of 18, 91 yards) in an ugly 14-9 win.

''Stafford had an opportunity to be the starter when he played those three or four games while Joe was mending,'' Richt said. ''If Stafford had played lights out, it would have been very difficult to take him out of there. But he played about like you'd expect a freshman to play.''

Tereshinski returned last week and sparked the struggling offense with a solid first-half performance against Tennessee. But, after guiding the Bulldogs to a 24-7 lead, the senior tossed two interceptions and lost a fumble over the final two quarters. Tennessee took advantage of every mistake, romping to a 51-33 victory.

Stafford didn't object to Tereshinski remaining the starter.

''In the second half, he had a couple of unlucky breaks,'' the freshman said. ''But from what I saw, he played awesome. He hung in there, took some hits and put the ball where it needed to go.''

While hardly blaming Tereshinski for the loss - after all, the Volunteers blocked a punt for a touchdown and ran roughshod over Georgia's top-ranked defense - Richt is clearly getting frustrated with the lack of production from his quarterbacks.

Georgia ranks eighth in the SEC and 87th nationally in passing yards (165.5 per game), with only five touchdowns and seven interceptions. The team's pass efficiency ratings are even worse - 10th in the conference and 89th overall.

It's been a while since the Bulldogs have been in this sort of predicament. Greene was a four-year starter who became the winningest quarterback in major-college history. Shockley took over the job last season and guided Georgia to an SEC championship.

The dismal passing numbers are having a ripple effect on the rest of the offense. The Bulldogs should be one of the better rushing teams in the SEC with their troika of Thomas Brown, Kregg Lumpkin and Danny Ware (not to mention surprisingly effective fullback Brannan Southerland), but they're averaging just 135.3 yards on the ground.

There's little doubt that teams will continue to stack the line against Georgia, daring Tereshinski or whoever is at quarterback to win the game through the air.

''There's nothing we can do about it except play this thing through,'' Richt said. ''Is it ideal? Absolutely not. Is this what I want? No way. But we've got to live through the process.''

In some ways, Richt was heartened by the performance of Tennessee's Erik Ainge, who struggled the last two years while the Vols tried to sort out their own muddled situation at quarterback.

Now established as the starter, Ainge was unstoppable in the win over the Bulldogs, who gave up more points in the second half than they had in their first five games combined.

''Look at Ainge today and look at Ainge the last two years,'' Richt said. ''He was in and out of there, which didn't help the situation very much. But that happens as you're trying to get guys in position to be that solid starter. It doesn't happen overnight.''