Kansas State junior quarterback Joe Hubener is an aggressive football player. Always has been.
He doesn’t slide to avoid tackles. He hates stepping out of bounds. He fights for every inch every time he runs.
“If I have to lower my shoulder to get the first down,” Hubener said, “I am going to do it.”
Hubener, who is 6-foot-5, 211 pounds, learned how to out-muscle defenders at Cheney High, lining up at tight end and receiver as well as quarterback. Heck, he used to play defense and special teams, too. This is his style, and he isn’t going to change.
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Not after Jesse Ertz, K-State’s original starting quarterback, suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game. Not after Alex Delton, Hubener’s backup, hurt his knee against Texas-San Antonio, sidelining him for an unknown number of games while he recovers. Not ever.
Watching two of his teammates and friends go down could have affected Hubener. His health is of the utmost importance, after all. The Wildcats don’t have another proven quarterback on the roster. They intended for Jonathan Banks, a junior college transfer, to redshirt this season. If Hubener is plan B, they would rather not use plan D.
Hubener understands this. But his approach remains the same.
“You can’t be afraid of getting hurt,” Hubener said Tuesday. “It is part of the game. It is something you never want to see happen, but if you are playing timid, it is going to hurt your game and you can’t afford to do that.
“Certainly my goal is to stay healthy, but if that is what I am worried about during the game, there is something else I should be worried about.”
Hubener backed those words by rushing for 58 yards and a touchdown in 17 carries against UTSA, often meeting defenders head-on in the open field.
Afterward, he was asked if he could handle that kind of punishment for an entire season.
“I hope so,” Hubener replied. “That is the plan. Whatever the coaches want me to do, that is what I am going to do.”
If K-State’s offensive strategy against Louisiana Tech was an accurate indication of things to come, his coaches want to limit his rushing attempts.
Hubener rushed for 9 yards in a season-low eight carries against the Bulldogs in a game that required three overtimes. One of the attempts was actually a sack.
Instead of featuring Hubener on keepers or scrambles, coaches asked him to throw a season-high 26 times. He responded with 195 yards and three touchdowns.
“Playing quarterback, you want to throw the football,” Hubener said. “I like throwing the ball, not that I don’t like running. I enjoy running and I think I have some ability there, but we also have three capable running backs and two capable fullbacks. I am perfectly fine spreading the ball around and letting them run hard. That is what we need out of them.”
They delivered, too. On the ground, running back Justin Silmon stole the show by running for 114 yards in 24 carries. Charles Jones also registered 33 yards and a touchdown in seven carries, while fullbacks Winston Dimel and Glenn Gronkowski combined for five carries.
Running was their priority, not Hubener’s.
“It makes sense to make sure we don’t put him in harm’s way too much,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said before the game.
“But one of the things you find is when you try to be something you are not, you run a greater risk of injury than you might if you just do what you do. Joe is a pretty tough, young guy, and he is going to get in those situations where he is going to get tackled. That is the nature of the game.”
Snyder took things a step further this week, suggesting a lack of contact throughout the offseason and during practices may have contributed to the high number of quarterback injuries seen in college football this year.
Hubener says injuries are simply a part of the game. He is not afraid of them.