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From the bench to the spotlight Accidental QB: Career backup David Doy won the starting job after an injury to the incumbent and has led Salisbury to a 5-1 record.


Another chapter has been added to the storybook season of Salisbury State quarterback David Doy. Just be aware: It grows more astounding with each page.

Then again, this tale might be better suited for the movies. The quiet understudy, thrust out of the shadows, emerges as a star with a succession of dazzling performances. Doy has seen it happen before, but he never expected to be one of the central characters.

There was supposed to be a slow fade to his collegiate career. If not for an off-season injury to starter Marc Thomas, Doy would have spent his senior year as he did most of the others -- watching from the sidelines and waiting for the moment when he could take a few snaps in the closing minutes of a game.

That was before fate, in the form of a missed dunk, intervened.

Playing in a pickup basketball game over the summer, Thomas grabbed the rim with one hand, tried for a jam with the other and fell backward, cracking a vertebra and perhaps ending his days as a college quarterback. He wound up as a volunteer assistant coach. Doy became the Sea Gulls' savior.

He has led Salisbury to five consecutive victories and, at 5-1, its best start since 1987. The Sea Gulls have cracked the NCAA Division III South Region rankings for the first time in eight years, settling in at No. 3, and are assured of their first winning record since 1988. They play today at Bethany College.

"It's been something of a dream," he said, "but I haven't looked back on it too much. After the season is when I'll have time to reflect and maybe marvel at things that have happened to me."

He will want to pause at last weekend's game against Wesley College, a team that was undefeated and ranked No. 2 in the region.

The running backs churned out one yard, nothing more. But the Howard High graduate, 6 feet 1, 180 pounds, played the greatest game of his life, completing 27 of 43 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns. He worked out of the shotgun formation and without a huddle in the second half, and coach Joe Rotellini let him call his own plays.

The Sea Gulls, down by 14 points in the fourth quarter, rallied for a 24-21 victory.

"I realized when we went in at halftime that we were going to live or die with the pass, and we survived," said Doy, who has completed 58.9 percent of his throws (103 of 175) for 1,093 yards and six touchdowns, and has been honored by the East Coast Athletic Conference three times.

Doy transferred to Salisbury four years ago from St. Francis (Pa.), where he traveled with the team but didn't play as a freshman. He got into one game as a sophomore, then missed all but two games of the next season after injuring his knee while holding for an extra-point attempt. He was a medical redshirt, then came back healthy last season, replacing Thomas on a couple of occasions and completing 22 passes for 257 yards and two touchdowns. But he was no threat to Thomas, who threw for 1,918 yards and 10 touchdowns.

Though Doy was impressive in limited duty, he had to beat out two transfers to win the starting job this season. Rotellini didn't announce the winner until after the final scrimmage.

"Basically, his knowledge of the offense gave him the biggest advantage," Rotellini said. "Also, an intangible was that he's a natural leader and has a lot of confidence in his ability. We knew that if he won the job, he would bite and scratch and do everything to keep it. We knew we had a competitor. The others might have had a stronger arm, but David knew the system from the first day."

The system has undergone some changes, though, since Thomas left the picture. In recent years, the Sea Gulls' one-back, three-wide-receiver set has featured a classic, drop-back passer with a fondness for throwing deep. Len Annetta totaled nearly 6,000 yards and set 14 school records. Thomas followed, and the Sea Gulls kept looking for the fast strike.

Not anymore. They are more deliberate, more patient. And the short passing game is taking them a long way.

"David has done a nice job of playing within himself," Rotellini said. "He knows what he can and can't do. Marc had a very quick release and a strong arm, but now we're able to hold the ball more. In the past, when we scored, we scored quickly, then would have to go back on defense. Now we have a more controlled style of passing."

"Last year," Doy said, "we'd go 70 yards with the bomb. This year, we go 70 yards in 11 plays."

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