MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Running for 41 yards on 23 carries wasn’t going to cut it in Bill Snyder’s offense.
After all, running the ball has been a cornerstone at Kansas State ever since Snyder arrived on campus in the late 1980s. The school has produced standouts such as Darren Sproles and Daniel Thomas, and last year had one of the nation’s top rushing quarterbacks in Collin Klein.
So when the Wildcats produced 41 yards rushing in a season-opening loss to North Dakota State, it was time to regain their focus. And the result has been 479 yards rushing in a pair of wins, including 329 yards against Massachusetts last Saturday night.
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“Ever since North Dakota State, we didn’t do too good with the run,” running back Robert Rose said. “We kind of took that personally and kind of made it our business to be effective with our ground game because at K-State that is what we do, we run the ball.”
Whether it’s the downhill, between-the-tackles running of starter John Hubert or breakaway speed from Rose — not to mention the slippery skills of backup quarterback Daniel Sams — the Wildcats are equipped to cause Texas plenty of trouble in their Big 12 opener Saturday night.
BYU ran for 550 yards against the Longhorns a couple weeks ago, which prompted coach Mack Brown to replace defensive coordinator Manny Diaz with Greg Robinson. They fared little better last weekend against Ole Miss, allowing 272 yards on the ground.
“That was BYU, that was Ole Miss, and those were those games,” Rose said. “It could be a whole different game when we play Texas. Those guys will be fired up.”
So will the Wildcats (2-1), who are finally starting to get up to speed.
Hubert was limited to fewer than 3 yards per carry through the first two games, but he broke free for 118 yards on just 18 carries against the Minutemen. That performance allowed the senior to become the ninth Kansas State running back to run for more than 2,000 yards.
“Hubert is going to get his chances to get free,” wide receiver Tramaine Thompson said. “And when he does, he’s a beast when he gets going.”
The 5-foot-7 frame of Hubert has a tendency to hide behind the offensive line, but Snyder believes it’s his physicality that is most handy. He’s the best option between the tackles.
“John has that good lower-body strength,” Snyder said. “We don’t have anybody that would run it more physically.”
That’s a bit different than Rose, who stands 5-4 and prefers to get around the edges.
Rose had only 13 carries for 44 yards coming into the season, but he finally got a chance to shine against Massachusetts. He ran five times for 39 yards and scored his first touchdown.
“I think I have great assets that can help us win,” Rose said. “I want those to be utilized so I have to continue to put myself in a position to where they could be.”
The fourth-year senior said he’s fine taking any role in the Wildcat offense.
“It doesn’t really matter. I don’t have to get the ball,” he said. “I would do fine with blocking, catching or whatever the case may be. I just want to be utilized.”
Despite his small stature, Rose isn’t a pushover, either. And along with Hubert, he gives the Wildcats a pair of options who can be hard for defenders to find.
“They want to perform well just like everybody else,” center B.J. Finney said. “They might be small, but they can sure run, they can get underneath people and move.”