It’s a good thing Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder has nearly three weeks to decide on a starting quarterback for the Liberty Bowl.
If he had to make the choice today, he’s not sure he could pick between Kody Cook and Joe Hubener.
“I would probably go back upstairs,” Snyder said, “and sit in my office and ponder that for a while.”
It’s a difficult choice made even tougher by the way Cook switched from receiver to quarterback in the third quarter against West Virginia and led K-State to a come-from-behind victory that secured a 6-6 finish and a bowl invitation.
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Just when it looked like West Virginia was going to run away with the game, K-State’s offense got cooking.
“When we knocked their quarterback out, I thought we were in pretty good shape,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “That kid (Cook) comes in and plays a thousand times better than the other one (Hubener). I shook (Cook’s) hand out there and told him he is a gutsy kid. He was hurt, too, but battled through it and threw the ball a lot better than we thought he could. … He made a ton of plays.”
Cook, a senior, also led K-State on four touchdown drives in the first half against Oklahoma State. He has served as an emergency quarterback when Hubener was unable to play. A former junior-college quarterback, Cook cherishes the opportunity play both spots.
“It gives you more opportunity to be on the field and touch the ball,” Cook said. “Being that slash type of guy is something I like.”
Snyder said at various times this season he contemplated starting Cook instead of Hubener, but he never made the change, citing improved play from Hubener and a desire to leave Cook at receiver, a position where he caught 27 passes for 412 yards and three touchdowns. All three numbers rank second on the team.
For those reasons, odds are good that K-State sticks with Hubener against Arkansas, at least as the starter. A junior from Cheney, Kan., Hubener has started 11 games and played in all 12, completing 47.8 percent of his passes for 1,837 yards and nine touchdowns. He also rushed for 613 yards and 13 touchdowns. He was good at times filling in for injured quarterbacks Jesse Ertz and Alex Delton, but also maddeningly inconsistent.
But Hubener is coming off one of his worst outings — 6 of 19 for 85 yards and two interceptions — which opens the door for Cook.
Cook is preparing for any possibility.
“I just go out and practice and try to perform at both positions equally well,” Cook said. “Whatever coach decides is what coach decides. At the end of the day I will just try to do the best I can wherever I play.”
Perhaps the top performer during bowl practices will get the nod.
“We practice both of them there every single day,” Snyder said. “They take an equal amount of reps, which has been reasonably consistent throughout the latter stages of the season. Nothing changes there.”
Quarterback has been an unpredictable position for the Wildcats all season, and it remains that way with a bowl approaching.
Strong first practice
K-State had an unusual schedule last week. Snyder spent four days in New York, where he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame. Then he traveled to Memphis, Tenn., for a Liberty Bowl news conference with Arkansas coach Bret Bielema. He said he didn’t start preparing for the Razorbacks until Sunday. Players had that time off from practice, too.
But the break in action seemingly helped the Wildcats.
“I was really pleased with the first practice that we had, considering the fact they hadn’t been invested in workouts or anything to a great degree,” Snyder said. “They seemed to be no less conditioned than they seemed to be at the end of the season.”
Almost out of tickets
K-State has sold about 7,500 tickets to the Liberty Bowl, said senior associate athletic director of external operations Scott Garrett. The Wildcats’ ticket allotment for the game is 8,000. They are expecting to sell the rest before the Jan. 2 game. They are expecting many other fans to purchase tickets from other vendors.
The Liberty Bowl should have a near-sellout crowd. Arkansas has sold its complete ticket allotment.
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett