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Sowers hopes to return to limelight

September 17, 2006|by MARK KELLER

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. - Nate Sowers isn't accustomed to being on the sidelines. It's not something he necessarily wants to get used to either.

But that's where the former Martinsburg High School football star finds himself, watching the majority of the action as the third-string quarterback at West Virginia University.

"It is difficult, because I've basically been a starter all my life," Sowers said after the Mountaineers' 45-24 victory over Maryland on Thursday. "It's definitely a different situation for me. But it's a different level, too. I didn't expect to come here and start as a freshman."

Sowers isn't your ordinary third-string college quarterback. The football-savvy West Virginia fans know the redshirt freshman's Martinsburg pedigree: The 37 wins as a starter, two trips to the state finals, the All-State recognition, the Kennedy Award as a senior.

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He's added to that resume since his arrival at Morgantown in 2005. Sowers was WVU's scout team player of the year in his first season, then engaged in a high-profile battle with redshirt freshman Jarrett Brown this spring for the right to be sophomore starting quarterback Pat White's backup.

Although coach Rich Rodriguez originally talked about Sowers and Brown as "co-No. 2" quarterbacks, it's clear that Brown has moved ahead of Sowers on the depth chart.

"Nobody's really said that, but I think it's pretty evident at this point," Sowers said. "Jarrett's gotten in there and done a great job, and we try to help each other out to be the best that we can be."

Sowers saw his first game action at WVU last Saturday in the Mountaineers' 52-3 win over Eastern Washington, even though he had a strained hip flexor prior to the game. He said he knew it might be his best chance to play this season.

"They wrapped it up and it felt pretty good," Sowers said. "I was going to try to go if I could."

He quarterbacked two series - one in the third quarter, one in the fourth. After an incomplete pass on the first drive, Sowers ran for a 7-yard gain. But he also strained a hamstring on the play leaping over a defender.

He returned for the next series and led a six-play, 57-yard drive, capped by his own 8-yard touchdown run.

"It was just a naked bootleg and I had the opening," Sowers said. "I went untouched until the goal line."

Sowers took a shot at the goal line, which aggravated his hip flexor. He didn't practice last week and did not suit up for the Maryland game.

Rodriguez has said he plans to use Sowers as a receiver in some situations to take advantage of his athleticism. There also has been rumblings of a possible move to defense, where Sowers would play in the secondary.

"The thing with Nate is we've got to make a decision which position will get him on the field quicker," Rodriguez said in April. "He does enough things from a physical standpoint we think he can play somewhere for us."

Sowers is not opposed to a switch to defense, but he said that any change likely would not happen until after the season. He also said he has no plans to transfer out of West Virginia.

"I've never really thought about it, but I heard that the first week I got here," Sowers said. "It's not something I've ever considered. It's an exciting time to be here, probably one of the top points ever for the program.

"I'm proud to be a Mountaineer. I'll be a Mountaineer the rest of my career."

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