Kansas State starting QB comes down to staying healthy
MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Kansas State coach Bill Snyder isn’t ruling out anybody under center.
”We got (295-pound defensive lineman) Will Geary back there now,” he quipped Tuesday, as the Wildcats prepare to face No. 2 TCU following a 36-34 loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State. ”It’s like you say, you look around, but it is slim pickings.”
In the first four weeks this season, Kansas State (3-1, 0-1) has seen four quarterbacks go down with injuries and a fifth to illness, including starter Joe Hubener and senior wide receiver and fifth-string option Kody Cook on Saturday against the Cowboys.
So while humorously calling Geary an option, Snyder has a point: The depth touted entering the season at quarterback has come and gone, bringing about a dilemma he hasn’t faced in 24 years at Kansas State.
”I don’t know if it’s happened at any place,” Snyder added. ”We certainly set the standard for it, haven’t we?”
At the very least, they’ve certainly sparked intrigue. Jesse Ertz was named the opening-game starter after a competitive fall camp, but he suffered a season-ending knee injury on the first snap against South Dakota, giving way to Hubener.
True freshman Alex Delton suffered a meniscus injury in mop-up duty against Texas-San Antonio and transfer Jonathan Banks fell ill before Oklahoma State. On paper, that left the Wildcats with Hubener and freshman Zach Davidson going into Oklahoma State. But an emergency plan with Cook was also put in place.
Six plays into the game, it was needed.
Hubener suffered a helmet-to-helmet hit while trying to slide for a first down. Replays showed his head bouncing off the turf and a dazed look in his eyes as he walked toward the sidelines.
”It’s kind of funny because the coaches were telling me I might want to learn how to slide,” Hubener said. ”Of course, the first time I try it, that’s what happens. I came back joking saying, `I shouldn’t have listened to the coaches on that one.”’
Adhering to concussion protocol, Hubener was put through a litany of tests, which he called ”extensive” Tuesday. He passed each one and was then cleared to play. The only problem? By then, Cook was commanding the game.
In three quarters, he completed 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran for 87 yards and a score, as the Wildcats built a 28-13 lead with five minutes to play in the second quarter.
Cook experienced a similar situation at Hutchinson Community College, moving from receiver to quarterback to lead the Blue Dragons to a victory in the 2012 Salt City Bowl.
This time, Cook couldn’t deliver a win. He couldn’t even finish the game.
He absorbed a hit following a 32-yard run early in the fourth quarter that kept him on the ground, grimacing in pain. Trainers worked on his shoulder area on the sidelines, but he did not return.
Despite that, given the extreme circumstances, Snyder was impressed by Cook’s effort.
”He adapted so very well,” Snyder said. ”I was awfully proud of him. He had a short week of practice in that capacity. He has great recall and I thought he did a marvelous job of picking things up.”
Snyder wouldn’t talk about how severely injured Cook’s shoulder was, mentioning only that his status for Saturday is questionable. He did, however, confirm that Cook will continue to ”play both spots” once healthy.
Meanwhile, Hubener is preparing for the Horned Frogs as he would any other week, though he does recognize how strange things have been this season at quarterback.
”Certainly it’s been a wild roller-coaster ride as far as the quarterbacks have been,” he said. ”It’s really just a testament to the type of guys that we have. Kody Cook is as good of an athlete as anybody, and he was able to step in and fill those shoes and do a tremendous job with it.”
For now, though, it’s about who can stay healthy. The Wildcats hope Hubener can do just that. If not, it’ll be Davidson. After that? Who knows?
”Joe should be able to go,” Snyder said. ”We’re confident about that, but outside of that there’s some uncertainty.”