Boom-or-bust Hubert has eyes set on 1,000
By ARNE GREEN
By ARNE GREEN
Special to The Telegram
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — If John Hubert could change one thing about his 2013 season, it wouldn't be his production.
The numbers show that he's been every bit as effective as in his previous two years as Kansas State's No. 1 running back.
What made this year more trying than most for Hubert was the weekly uncertainty.
"Sometimes I touched the ball five or six times, and other games I touched the ball 15 to 18 times," Hubert said of a regular season that could best be described as feast or famine. "From the first quarter, I could tell what type of game it was going to be on my behalf.
"It has been a rollercoaster. It kind of seemed like I had a down year as far as progress, but if you really look at it stats-wise, it's been about the same as the last two years."
Regardless of how he does when the Wildcats face Michigan in Saturday night's Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, Hubert will leave K-State as the school's second-leading career rusher. Three straight 900-plus-yard seasons have put him at 2,913 yards with one game to go.
For the first two of those seasons, he ran in the shadow of quarterback Collin Klein, yet still finished with 970 yards as a sophomore and 947 his junior campaign. He sits at 968 so far this year with a chance to finally break the elusive 1,000-yard barrier.
"That's always been my goal," said Hubert a powerfully-built 5-foot-7, 191-pounder from Waco, Texas. "I'm 32 yards away, I think.
"I'm just looking forward to going into this game and having a big game. It's my last game, so I just want to come out and end it with a bang."
Hubert certainly made some noise in the last regular-season game when he broke loose for career highs of 220 yards on 30 carries in a 31-10 victory at Kansas. That put him in position to make a run at 1,000 after totaling just 42 yards on 15 carries over the two previous games against TCU and Oklahoma.
And that's the frustrating part for Hubert, who eclipsed 100 yards four of 12 games, with 90 and 86 in two others. Because in his other six games, he barely averaged 10 attempts with a high of 56 yards.
While he would prefer a minimum of 15 carries per game, Hubert acknowledged that K-State's offense has other options as well with quarterbacks Jake Waters and Daniel Sams, plus all-Big 12 receiver Tyler Lockett.
Waters ranks second in the league in passing efficiency and Sams is eighth in rushing — three spots behind Hubert — with 784 yards. Lockett is third in the conference with 71 catches for 1,146 yards despite missing one game and most of another with an injury.
"It's kind of hard to give everybody touches," Hubert said. "We're just spreading the ball out.
"Everybody gets a piece of the pie, so I just play my role, and if it's three carries or 15 carries or me just blocking, that's what I do. I'm just trying to be a team player."
Cody Whitehair, the Wildcats' sophomore left guard, has seen Hubert adapt in those games where he all but disappears from the stat sheet.
"If the play is called where he's going to run the ball, he's going to run the ball and he's going to run it hard," Whitehair said. "If we call the quarterback run game five times a game and he gets the rest of the touches, he's prepared for that, too.
"I think John's prepared for most situations he is put in."
Besides, it's difficult to complain after K-State won five of six games to end the regular season after a 2-4 start.
"It's frustrating and I'd be upset a lot. I want to say something, but I don't want to be that selfish guy," Hubert said. "So I'll just be the team player and as long as we come out with a victory, I'm fine with that."
With that in mind, Hubert said he will resist keeping track during Saturday's game once the countdown to 1,000 yards is on.
"If I can't get 32 yards, something is wrong to me," he said with a smile. "I'm looking forward to this game, going over a thousand yards.
"I just can't wait until Saturday."