Richt's Bulldogs lack bite

Your offense is sputtering like a vintage Chevette due to instability and inconsistency at quarterback. Sound familiar? It should. The Tennessee Vols dealt with that problem in 2005 and the Georgia Bulldogs are dealing with it in 2006.

That should make for an interesting evening when the 10th-ranked Bulldogs host the 13th-ranked Vols Saturday at 7:45 in Athens.

Mark Richt's 2006 Dawgs have allowed just 34 points in five games but they rank 89th out of 119 NCAA Div. 1 programs in total offense. They managed just 14 points against defensively challenged Ole Miss last weekend and 14 against winless Colorado the week before.

As was the case with the 2005 Vols, the 2006 Bulldogs can't seem to find a competent quarterback. Consider:

- Senior Joe Tereshinski started the first two games before missing the next three with a sprained ankle. He has completed just 9 of 20 passes (45 percent) for a mere 108 yards and carries a modest passer-efficiency rating of 106.86. Still, he'll start vs. Tennessee if healthy.

- Freshman Matthew Stafford started Games 3 and 4 but was yanked in Game 4 after three woeful quarters vs. Colorado. He has completed just 36 of 75 passes (48 percent) for 485 yards with three interceptions. His passer-efficiency rating is a sickly 98.72 but he'll start this weekend if Tereshinski can't go.

- Freshman Joe Cox started Game 5 vs. Ole Miss but was pulled after completing just 4 of 10 passes for 24 yards in the first half. Stafford played the entire second half as the Dawgs nipped the lowly Rebels 14-9. Statistically, Cox is the best of Georgia's quarterbacks, completing 17 of 28 (60.7 percent) for 225 yards and two touchdowns. His passer-efficiency rating is a robust 144.64 but he couldn't generate a single first-half point against Ole Miss, which ranks dead last in five of 10 SEC defensive categories.

Phil Fulmer can relate to Richt's quarterback woes. The same problems haunted Tennessee's head man throughout a 2005 season that ended with a disappointing 5-6 record.

"Most of my time here as a head coach, playing a younger guy that was more talented usually worked out. Last year it didn't," Fulmer noted this week. "Maybe we should've named (Erik) Ainge the starter in the spring. Or maybe should've let him work his way into the lineup and gone with the older guy (Rick Clausen)."

Ainge started five games and Clausen six last fall, mostly because neither played well enough to keep the job for very long. Neither was happy with the way the quarterback quandary was handled but Fulmer couldn't care less.

"It's their job to make you happy; not necessarily our job to make them happy," he said. "The problem is how your team looks at it. There's emotions and all sorts of things that surround that position."

Since Fulmer is 1-4 in five meetings with Richt, he isn't about to offer any advice on what the Georgia coach might do to resolve his quarterback problems.

"Mark's very capable of making that decision," Fulmer said. "He doesn't need my help."

Although Georgia is averaging a paltry 297 yards of total offense per game, Fulmer says the Bulldogs are much better than that statistic suggests.

"I know what they're capable of offensively," he said. "They've got probably the best running back group in the conference and a really good group of receivers with speed and ability. There's been some drop-off (from 2005) but it probably looks worse than it is."

On paper, Tennessee's defense should dominate Georgia's struggling attack this weekend. The Vols limited Memphis to 121 total yards and five first downs in Saturday's 41-7 romp. Fulmer says fans shouldn't read too much into those numbers, however, because UT's offense controlled the ball so well that the defense played just 37 snaps vs. Memphis.

"Defensively, we weren't challenged as much as we anticipated," Fulmer said. "We did a good job controlling their perimeter game and stopping the run. It's unusual to have only 37 snaps on defense. It was a good win for us but it's a much bigger challenge this coming week."


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