Watching a quarterback play hurt is nothing new for Kansas State football fans.
Collin Klein shrugged off myriad injuries during his two seasons as a starter, Jake Waters delayed surgery on his right shoulder to finish out his senior year and now Jesse Ertz is throwing through pain.
It’s practically a rite of passage.
“That is just how Kansas State is,” backup quarterback Joe Hubener said this week. “We preach toughness day in, day out. If you’ve got bumps and bruises, you have got to fight through it.”
Healthy or not, the Wildcats trust their quarterbacks to get the job done. They often do, at times playing so well that you wonder if they are truly injured.
One look at Ertz is all it took to see he was hurt last week, throwing passes with less zip than he had in K-State’s first six games. But his performance in a 24-21 victory over Texas told a different story.
Ertz played his finest game, completing 20 of 27 passes for 171 yards and a touchdown while also rushing for 78 yards and two touchdowns. It wasn’t a perfect effort, as he lost a fumble and threw an interception, but his injured right shoulder never appeared to be a concern.
K-State coaches set up Ertz for success by asking him to attempt mostly short, high-percentage passes, and he looked sharp completing them.
“It gives you a lot of respect for the guy,” Hubener said. “He is a competitor and he is going to keep fighting until his body won’t let him.”
He was in pain, but he never let it show. Ertz’s play was reminiscent of Waters breaking K-State’s single-season passing record with a bum shoulder and Klein leading the Wildcats to 21 victories with nagging injuries.
They provided him with a blueprint for success.
“The best thing is he has visited with a variety of different people who have experienced what he has experienced,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said of Ertz, who has not spoken with media in more than two weeks. “I can say a lot of things to him, but, at the end of the day, I haven’t experienced exactly what he is experiencing. For him to be able to have dialogue with those who have is really comforting for him.”
Snyder says Ertz should be back near full strength for K-State’s upcoming game against Iowa State. Of course, he will lead the offense even if he isn’t.
A knee injury kept him off the field for all but a few plays last season. No way is he going to let an aggravated shoulder send him back to the sideline.
“Unlike a number of different sports, you only get so many opportunities,” Snyder said. “You virtually practice 365 days a year to play 12 games. You don’t want to pass any of them up. I think there is that passion for the game inside (Ertz).”
Hubener spent extra time with K-State’s starting offense during practice last week, and will do the same this week in case he is needed against the Cyclones.
He knows he needs to be ready to play at a moment’s notice the same way he was when Ertz couldn’t finish the Oklahoma game. But he also knows it will take more than a sore shoulder to force Ertz, a native of Burlington, Iowa, out of a game in his home state.
“We have a very punishing offense for our quarterbacks with a lot of our quarterback run game,” Hubener said. “You certainly have to be tough to handle it.”
Kellis Robinett: @kellisrobinett