I’ve been combing Joe Hubener’s bio on KStateSports.com for a while. High school: Cheney. Former walk-on. Finished fifth in the javelin at state track in high school. That’s all great. Unfortunately, it’s not what I’m looking for. You see, I’m certain that his “PERSONAL” section should mention something about Hubener being a master impersonator. After all, the junior quarterback did a pretty convincing impersonation of Collin Klein in Saturday’s 30-3 victory over UTSA.

Is it absurd to compare a former walk-on to a former Heisman finalist? Yes, probably. It’s even more ridiculous to do so after that QB’s first career start. That’s why I’m not saying that Hubener reminds me of Klein, the finished product, award winner, and hero of Wildcat Nation. No, Hubener reminds me of Klein as a sophomore. You know, the Klein that served as a change-of-pace quarterback while Carson Coffman started, and then surprised… well, everyone, when he made his first career start against the University of Texas, leading the Wildcats to a 39-14 victory. How did Hubener’s starting debut compare to Klein’s? Let us count the ways. (Spoiler alert: There are three.)

1- Rushing 

  • First start Klein: 25 carries, 127 yards, 2 touchdowns
  • First start Hubener: 17 carries, 58 yards, 1 touchdown

Hubener’s rushing numbers pale in comparison to Klein’s, but, for the sake of comparison, let’s dig a bit deeper. Klein attacked a Texas defense by running a read-option with Daniel Thomas, the Wildcat program’s No. 5 all-time leading rusher. Thomas amassed over 2,800 rushing yards in his two seasons in Manhattan, the highest total ever for a transfer Wildcat. Meanwhile, Hubener’s attempts come alongside Charles Jones, who already has area reporters calling for him to be demoted to second-string this season.

Klein may have benefited from playing alongside Thomas early, but he clearly established himself as a running threat against any defense during his Wildcat career, finishing as K-State’s No. 3 all-time leading rusher. Hubener, meanwhile, may not hit open gaps quite as quickly as Klein, but the patience he showed waiting for plays to develop, along with the long strides from his 6-5 frame, looked eerily similar to the former Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year.

2- Passing

  • First start Klein: 2-4, 9 yards
  • First start Hubener: 12-23, 243 yards

We have established (and medical records will support the fact) that Hubener is not Klein. That said, it’s safe to say that Hubener is more developed in the passing game than Klein was upon his first start. While Klein was only entrusted with four passing attempts (granted, that’s all they needed) in his debut, Hubener had a chance to air it out. It will sound blasphemous to some, but Hubener’s downfield passing game may already rival Klein’s at his peak. The kid* has a strong arm and puts good touch on downfield passes, as his 20 yards per completion will attest. Stats aside, he passes the eye test with throws like his third-quarter strike to Andre Davis down the middle.

Unfortunately, Hubener’s accuracy at times looks like that of a guy who hasn’t always been a quarterback. Fitting for a guy who started at wide receiver and defensive back in high school. In the same way Klein looked like a wide receiver throwing the ball early in his career, Hubener looked like a first-time-since-Junior-Varsity starter at quarterback on several short passes on Saturday. His short game should improve as he gets more comfortable, but it may need to in a hurry. Big 12 defenses are approaching.

*Yes, it’s depressing to be in an age bracket where I can safely call college students “kids.” Thanks for asking. 

3- Intangibles

Both quarterbacks led their teams to victory in their first starts. Both made plays when it mattered. And, like Klein, Hubener showed an ability to make something extra happen. To get the extra yard, even when no one expects it.

In the first quarter of Saturday’s game, the Wildcats faced a third-and-11 situation on their own 15 yard line. Hubener took the shotgun snap and felt pressure coming from both edges almost immediately. He stepped up in the pocket and stumbled.

At this point, I – along with Wildcat fans across the country – attempted to come to grips with the fact that this sack was going to force a punt that would potentially give UTSA great field position. That discouragement morphed into disbelief, though, as Hubener regained his balance and rolled right.

Nearing the sidelines, Hubener cocked his arm back. I – along with Wildcat fans across the country – attempted to come to grips with the fact that this pass, on the run, amidst chaos, would probably be wild. An incompletion or even an interception was quite possible.

Instead, Hubener pulled the ball back down and shimmied as if a dance contest had broken out on the field. Propelling himself forward, he left two defenders in his wake. Now hitting full stride, he slipped through the hands of two more before lowering his shoulder and ramming a Roadrunner defender.

The end result: 15 yards and a Wildcat first down. The Wildcat quarterback had no business gaining a yard on the play, but he ended up extending the drive. Switch his number to seven and bloody an elbow and I may have sworn that Klein was back on the field.

Joe Hubener is not Collin Klein. He was not the starting quarterback to begin the season. He may even face an uphill battle to be the starter in 2016. That said, Hubener is K-State’s quarterback right now. And if a reasonable Collin Klein impersonation, right down to continually exceeding expectations, keeps this team winning, I’m all for it.

About The Author

Hi, I’m Derek Larson. You might remember me from such autobiographical blurbs as “Yo Soy Derek” and “Paste Blurb Here.” I was born and raised in the Manhattan area and I graduated from Kansas State University in 2005. Now I’m now adjusting to life in the land of husking corn. My groom’s cake was a Powercat and I was once convinced that the future of Wildcat basketball was a seven-foot volleyball player. I’ve written about K-State sports in different capacities, often without people asking me to. My hobbies include bringing more purple to Lincoln, Neb., and making vague (and not-so-vague) references to The Simpsons. Follow me on Twitter at @dereklarson.

Related Posts