Like any good backup quarterback, Alex Delton approaches every football game with the mentality that he will play from start to finish.
Most weeks, that approach is used as a precaution. This week, it is a necessity.
Two sources have confirmed a report from K-State Online that Delton is expected to make his first college start against TCU on Saturday. The sources said usual starter Jesse Ertz is dealing with a knee injury that will prevent him from playing against the Horned Frogs.
K-State coach Bill Snyder said earlier this week that Ertz would continue starting if he was at or near 100 percent by Saturday, adding that his playing status would depend on how the week went.
“It depends upon whether Jesse is totally capable of going or not,” Snyder said. “We want to make sure he is healthy.”
Ertz played through obvious pain against Baylor and Texas, but he is unlikely to do the same against TCU.
Delton has been leading K-State’s starting offense in practice, the sources said, and he is eager to try and pick up where he left off against the Longhorns when he rushed for 79 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries during a 40-34 loss.
It will be a big moment for him, but he’s using the same approach as always.
“I am just taking this week like every week,” Delton said. “I am going to work like I am going to be the guy, like every other week I have been. I am going to study the same amount, get with the receivers, get with Jesse, go over the game plan, take it like a normal week and just try to execute our game plan.”
Delton, a sophomore from Hays, has attempted a total of eight passes while seeing action in eight games as a backup, but he has experience beyond what shows up on a stat sheet.
When Ertz missed spring practices while recovering from shoulder surgery, Delton stepped in and commanded the first-string offense. He started and took every snap with the purple team at K-State’s spring game. He also enrolled a semester early out of high school to get a head start and studied the offense during his redshirt year.
Nothing confuses him about the playbook.
“I feel comfortable with our offense,” Delton said. “This is my third fall here, so I feel comfortable with every aspect of our offense. I have performed basically everything we have in practice. Obviously, in games I haven’t yet. But I feel comfortable with everything. I am excited to kind of display that later and show everybody what we can do.”
One question fans, and perhaps TCU defenders, will have for Delton: Can he throw?
Delton is a gifted runner, and he proved it against Texas, leading the Wildcats back from a 24-17 deficit and forcing two overtimes. But he only completed 2 of 5 passes for 30 yards.
Quite a bit different from Ertz, who has thrown for 2,685 yards and 16 touchdowns, while adding 1,399 yards and 15 touchdowns on the ground.
“Alex has a strong arm,” Snyder said. “He is an athlete. He throws the ball well. As for anybody at that position, he wouldn’t be there if he couldn’t throw the ball. I think the important thing is to manage the process and go through the progressions and make the right decisions about where to go with the ball.”
If there’s one thing Delton would like to prove to his doubters, it’s that he is more than just a running quarterback.
“I am excited to get in there and make some plays with my arm,” Delton said. “We have guys who are threats downfield that I feel confident throwing the ball to.”
Snyder said Delton made mostly good decisions against Texas, getting K-State’s offense lined up in the correct play on all but two occasions.
He appears ready for a larger role.
“Obviously, Jesse has more experience,” K-State receiver Dalton Schoen said. “But Alex, now, it seems like he is equally experienced. He has played in some key situations.”
Throughout his time at K-State, Delton has watched Ertz play from a unique vantage point and tried to put himself in his teammate’s shoes. What would he do on this play? How would he handle that defense? Delton stays mentally ready so “there are no curve balls” whenever he enters a game.
The only hard thing about replacing Ertz, for any amount of time, is that Delton considers him a brother. They help each other on and off the field, talking about all things football when they prepare for an opponent and chatting about life when they relax.
It was thrilling for Delton to lead K-State on three scoring drives against Texas, but it was also painful for him to see Ertz on the sideline. That’s something he will likely have to deal with again when he tries to beat TCU.
“It is tough to see him dinged up,” Delton said. “I want the best for him, obviously, and he wants the best for me. We both want success for each other. It is hard, from a friend standpoint, to see him dinged up from time to time. Ever since I got here, Jesse has been a guy that I looked to.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett