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Kansas State Football: The Running QB Conundrum

Can K-State survive without running the QB? Can it survive with running the QB?

Kansas State v Iowa State Photo by David K Purdy/Getty Images

To run, or not to run, that is the question:
Whether ‘tis nobler to pass and suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous sacks
Or to take arms against a sea of incompletions
And by opposing end them. To run — to pass,
No More; and by a QB run, to say we end
The heart-ache of a thousand 2nd and 10s
That passing is heir to: ‘tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To run, to gain yards
To pick up 1st downs, perchance to score a TD - Ay, there’s the rub:
For in that run toward the end zone, what injuries may come
When the starter shuffles off the field holding his shoulder
Must give us pause—there’s the respect
That makes calamity of running your quarterback.

Note: We at Bring on the Cats would like to apologize to William Shakespeare and the English language in general. May God have mercy on Drew’s soul. We are currently reviewing our editorial procedures.

As you surmised from the title and my butchery of Shakespeare (didn’t even attempt iambic pentameter) this article is about the trials and tribulations of employing a quarterback run heavy game plan.

Personally, I’m a fan of dual threat quarterbacks. They allow the offense to deploy an extra blocker on designed runs, keep the pass rush honest, and make plays outside the offense. In the chaos that is college football, putting the ball in the hands of a player who can function in chaos is always a positive in my book.

At the same time, there is a trade-off which Kansas State fans know all too well. Having a dual threat quarterback is a blast until he is writhing on the ground holding an appendage. Quarterback is one of, if not the, most important positions in team sports. Many promising seasons have been scuttled because of an injured quarterback, and the Wildcats are dealing with the possibility of being without their top signal caller for two of the most important games in recent program history.

College football is rife with tradition, and losing a starting quarterback to injury has become a fixture in Manhattan under Coach Klieman. This is the third season in a row that Kansas State’s starter will miss significant time. Granted, quarterbacks can be injured on any given play (see Skylar Thompson getting erased by one of the dirtiest hits I’ve seen in college football), but the more you run a quarterback, the more hits they take and the more hits they take, and the more hits the take, the more likely it is that they don’t get up from one of those hits

A quarterback like Adrian Martinez needs to run the ball to be effective, but in the process ends up looking like a crash test dummy by the end of the season (if he makes it to the end of the season). Balancing the need to run the quarterback to win and the need to keep the quarterback healthy is a tricky proposition. Refusing to run the quarterback early in the season, in order to keep him healthy late in the season, may result in those end-of-the-season games being meaningless. Run the quarterback early in the season to ensure the games at the end of the season matter, and you might be playing those games without your most important player.

Being a college football coach is hard, y’all.

I have no idea what the answer is for Kansas State. In an ideal world, the Wildcats have enough talent to win games without putting their quarterback in jeopardy unless the level of opponent requires the quarterback run game to win. In reality, Kansas State has to empty the tank every game. There are no off weeks. We saw that in full effect during the Tulane loss. If you’re going to have a guy with Martinez’s skill set behind center, he needs to run early and often to be effective.

My only potential solution is to play your backup quarterback regularly. That somewhat goes against my “100% effort to win” statement above, but it’s better than not running the quarterback and hoping for the best. If playing your back-up is inevitable, as it seems to be for K-State, keeping him involved in the game plan and letting him absorb some of the punishment otherwise absorbed by the starter might help. It’s obviously a moot point now, but looking back, I think the team would have still been sitting at 5-1 if Will Howard came in for a couple series every game, and it’s possible that Martinez would have been available for more than one series against TCU.

This isn’t a problem that is going away any time soon. Next season, if Will Howard is the starter, he’s going to run the ball. He’s a big dude, but he’s not immune to injury, in fact, we’ve seen him banged up in a couple games already. It would behoove the coaching staff to have one, if not two, options behind Howard game-ready. That means a series or two a game for Jake Rubley or (gasp) Avery Johnson. It doesn’t guarantee that K-State doesn’t go into a big game without the most important player on their team (again, see Skylar Thompson getting assaulted by Texas Tech) but, as I mentioned earlier, it could lower the injury odds somewhat. If (when?) the starter goes down to injury, the backup is ready to roll.

Admittedly I am grasping at straws, and changing nothing and hoping for the best may be the only play. Sometimes there is no solution to a problem other than dumb luck. I also know that I’m tired of watching good K-State teams get short-circuited by quarterback injuries at the most inopportune times.

This is an open ended article. I made one suggestion, but would love to hear your thoughts on this subject. Should K-State limit QB runs early in the season? Play multiple quarterbacks? Start recruiting pocket passers? Make a blood sacrifice to the Quarterback Gods in order to keep the starter healthy?

The comment section is wide open. Go crazy folks.

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