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Mountaineers pass on QB controversy

Published Dec. 29, 1993|Updated Oct. 10, 2005

In high school, Darren Studstill was the kind of quarterback who would score the winning touchdown and then tell his coach, "I love you."

"I've never had (any other) kid say something like that," Palm Beach Gardens coach Mike Doyle said. "I've never had that kind of kid."

In college, Studstill has shown the same flair for emotional dramatics, but he comes off the bench to do it. The West Virginia senior rallied the Mountaineers to a 17-14 victory against Boston College with a last-minute touchdown pass. The win helped West Virginia finish the 1993 regular season undefeated.

"I've been through a lot of trials and tribulations," Studstill said. "But I've been persevering, and that outcome made it worthwhile. It was the highlight of my career."

What trials and tribulations could a quarterback have when he is completing 59 percent of his passes and averaging 5.4 yards a carry?

Quite a few, when the guy starting ahead of you is one of the nation's most efficient passers. When West Virginia challenges Florida in Saturday's Sugar Bowl, it will be Jake Kelchner _ not Studstill _ leading the Mountaineers.

Kelchner's statistics (97-of-147 for 1,565 yards, 176.0 rating) have garnered him the post-season spotlight, but Studstill's acceptance of the backup role has helped No. 3 West Virginia avoid a quarterback controversy.

Kelchner opens the show with a confident first-quarter act to get the Mountaineers started in the right direction. Studstill usually plays the second quarter and Kelchner returns in the second half.

Studstill got a chance against Boston College because Kelchner was injured. But Kelchner's sore hamstring and elbow have healed, and Studstill will be on the sideline Saturday when Kelchner takes the first snap.

Both will be emotionally charged, but those emotions won't include envy. "We're good friends, we're real close," said Kelchner, who rooms with Studstill on the road. "There's no controversy."

The Kelchner-Studstill friendship has grown out of the platoon system, which has been mutually beneficial. West Virginia coach Don Nehlen said both halves of his quarterback tandem can throw and run with proficiency. They also do a good job scouting opposing defenses from the sideline.

"It's had more of an effect than I thought at first," Studstill said. "Jake and myself try to do the same things, so I think it really helps him get a better look at the defensive formations, coverages and so on. When I'm on the sideline, it's the same thing."

Another reason West Virginia's senior pair has avoided controversy is maturity. The two seniors have set aside the personal drawbacks of the situation. Of course, drawbacks are nothing new for Kelchner and Studstill.

Kelchner earned a scholarship to Notre Dame in 1989, but the Irish eyes never really smiled for him. He got into academic trouble his first semester, then broke his right collarbone in the spring game and his academics continued to lag. He was not readmitted for the 1990 fall semester and went to Holy Cross Junior College to raise his grades.

But after being charged with driving under the influence of alcohol _ a charge later reduced to reckless driving _ he "was asked not to return to Notre Dame."

Studstill came to West Virginia with the hope of succeeding Major Harris, who helped the Mountaineers go 11-0 in 1988 before losing to Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl.

Studstill helped WVU go undefeated, but not in the way he wanted to.

"A lesser kid couldn't have handled this," Doyle said. "He's a real competitor, but he's a real good team player."

Said Studstill: "My strength, personally, comes from the heavens. I'm an athlete, a competitor, but I don't worry about things I can't control. I don't get caught up in who's starting even though I want to be out there."

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