Bob Lutz

Jesse Ertz joining long line of K-State QB keepers

K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz (16) pushes aside Texas safety Jason Hall (31) as he runs for his second touchdown against the Longhorns on Oct. 22.
K-State quarterback Jesse Ertz (16) pushes aside Texas safety Jason Hall (31) as he runs for his second touchdown against the Longhorns on Oct. 22. The Wichita Eagle

Kansas State junior Jesse Ertz seems to be getting the hang of playing quarterback for the Wildcats and it has nothing to do with how he’s throwing the football.

Although, in fairness, he has been throwing better lately.

Still, Ertz hasn’t had a 200-yard passing game since K-State’s opener at Stanford on Sept. 2. He’s thrown for seven touchdowns in eight games. It’s not Ertz’s right arm, though, that always matters most.

It’s his two legs.

Ertz is becoming another in a long line of running K-State quarterbacks, a prerequisite to playing the position for Bill Snyder.

“That is the nature of our offense,” Snyder said. “You go back in history, our quarterback has been either the leading rusher or right up there with our running backs for the most part.”

Snyder has always believed a running quarterback added an extra dimension to his offense, but it didn’t start to get crazy until Michael Bishop showed up in Manhattan in 1997. Bishop had a great arm, but he was also a daring, dashing runner who gained 1,314 yards during his two seasons.

Bishop still ranks 18th in rushing for K-State, but he’s only the fourth-leading QB in the top 20.

Which leads to some interesting K-State trivia questions:

▪ Who is the only quarterback to lead the team in rushing for a season?

▪ Who are the two quarterbacks who rank in the top seven in career rushing yardage?

▪ Which three former players have the five top QB rushing seasons for the Wildcats?

▪ Which four QBs rank among the top 10 in rushing touchdowns for K-State?

Answers:

▪ Collin Klein led K-State in rushing with 1,141 yards in 2011.

▪ Ell Roberson (2,818 yards) and Klein (2,485) rank fourth and sixth in career rushing yards.

▪ Klein and Roberson, no surprise, have four of the top five rushing seasons for a K-State quarterback. The other belongs to Daniel Sams, who gained 807 yards on the ground in 2013.

▪ Klein’s 56 rushing touchdowns are the most for a K-State player. Roberson ranks third with 30, followed by Jonathan Beasley (26, tie 7th) and Bishop (23, tie 9th).

One of the things K-State got away from during Snyder’s temporary retirement from 2006-08 was a running quarterback. We all wondered why Ron Prince, who replaced Snyder, didn’t utilize strapping quarterback Josh Freeman more as a runner. Freeman finished with negative rushing yardage thanks to sacks in 2006 and 2007 before rushing for 404 yards in 2008.

Oh, what Snyder would have done with the 6-foot-6, 240-pound Freeman to accentuate his ability as a passer.

“We want our quarterback to be an effective runner,” Snyder said. “By and large, that is the nature of our offense. That just gives us more balance in our offense. That gives us more avenues to try and gain yardage.”

Two of Snyder’s quarterbacks, Bishop and Klein, went to the wire for the Heisman Trophy because of their ability to pass and run.

Their arms made them dangerous, but their legs made them special.

K-State has had some outstanding running backs during this long period of quarterback scampering, including Darren Sproles, John Hubert, Daniel Thomas, Eric Hickson and Josh Scobey. Sproles, Thomas and Hubert are the top three rushers in K-State history while Hickson is fifth and Scobey is 10th.

In 14 of the 17 seasons Snyder has coached at K-State since 1997, the Wildcats have had a quarterback rush for 400 or more yards. The only exceptions were the two seasons surrounding Snyder’s short retirement — 2005 and 2009 — and 1999, when Beasley was in the process of replacing Bishop and hadn’t yet found his legs.

In the 17 Snyder-coached seasons since 1997, Kansas State has rushed for 40,320 yards. Quarterbacks have contributed 32.2 percent of those yards. That’s an amazingly-high percentage and again points to the importance Snyder places on finding versatile, athletic quarterbacks.

Ertz is progressing into one of those guys. He had 106 yards on nine carries during K-State’s win over Iowa State last week that included a 54-yard run. Ertz is averaging 5.9 yards per carry and has six rushing touchdowns, including two in the Wildcats’ win over Texas.

He is doing what Snyder expects his quarterbacks to do. And he’s the most recent in a long line to tote the football with the same enthusiasm with which he tosses.

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