Kansas State quarterback Jesse Ertz (16) tries to avoid South Dakota defensive back Tyson Graham (8) during the first half of an NCAA college football game in Manhattan, Kan., Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. Ertz was injured on the play and replaced by Joe Huben
Orlin Wagner
September 08, 2015

MANHATTAN, Kan. (AP) Joe Hubener sensed his Kansas State teammates were a bit unsettled when he entered the huddle during the first quarter of their game Saturday against South Dakota.

Jesse Ertz, who won the starting quarterback job after a long, tough competition in camp, had limped to the sideline after just two plays. He grimaced in pain as his teammates looked on, their season already having hit a speed bump just minutes into the opener.

Hubener didn't speak of the injury, nor offer words of encouragement. He eased the tension by confidently calling the next play and making things happen when the opportunity presented itself.

''Joe stepped up so well,'' Kansas State center Dalton Risner said. ''I'm so proud of the way he came in and got things going. He was barking out the calls in the huddle and on the field. He ran hard. Whenever we had a bad block, he would break a tackle in the backfield and keep going. I'm so proud of Joe, and I believe in him with all my heart. He's going to have a good year.''

He will certainly have to now that he's the starter.

Kansas State coach Bill Snyder did not disclose the nature of Ertz's injury, but did say this week that Ertz is out indefinitely. That means Hubener, the runner-up in that quarterback race, will be the No. 1 quarterback anyway when the Wildcats visit Texas-San Antonio on Saturday.

If there's a silver lining to Ertz's injury, it's undoubtedly timing. Hubener now has nearly a full game leading the offense, which wasn't the case in his seven mop-up appearances last year.

Hubener was 9 of 18 for 147 yards and a touchdown in the 34-0 rout of the Coyotes. His numbers were respectable, but may have been better if not for a couple of drops from his wide receivers.

''Just how close it could have been to being a huge day,'' Hubener said. ''We had a lot of balls that were close, a lot of missed opportunities that we can work on this week.''

Hubener has never started a game at quarterback, even in high school. At 6-foot-5, he towered over his peers at Cheney High School, a small town of about 2,000. So his coaches used him mostly at other positions, and he had just enough highlights at quarterback for a simple recruiting tape.

Kansas State was impressed by his athleticism and offered him a chance to walk on.

The past couple of years, he has learned from Collin Klein and Jake Waters, and did enough in practice to earn a scholarship last September. And when Waters graduated, Hubener and Ertz became the leading candidates in a four-man race to take over the starting job.

Ertz inevitably won it. But for Snyder, the competition means there may be little drop-off.

''Each of the four, and then when we narrowed it down, each of the three, really had the capabilities and the opportunities to step up and play the position,'' Snyder said. ''That just says we had decent depth and consequently that pays off.''

While it is not exactly at Oklahoma or Texas, Hubener will get his first start on the road nonetheless. The Wildcats are making a rare non-conference trip to face the Roadrunners at the Alamodome, where they lost the Alamo Bowl after last season.

Snyder doesn't seem concerned about it, though, or about the fact that the Wildcats are 0-7 in indoor games. He wants his new starting quarterback to focus only on leading Kansas State this weekend, and a simple piece of advice that he passed along.

''Just be Joe,'' Snyder said. ''That's all.''

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