MANHATTAN — Kansas State quarterback Alex Delton had a blast running for 142 yards and three touchdowns against Oklahoma on Saturday, but the following few days were not nearly as much fun.
“I was real sore Sunday and Monday,” Delton said Tuesday at K-State’s weekly media session. “I’m still pretty sore.”
That was to be expected after everything Delton did against the Sooners. The sophomore from Hays was the focal point of K-State’s offense, carrying the ball 27 times and throwing it 14 more.
zThat workload, and the tackles that came with it, took a toll on his body.
Some say 27 rushing attempts is too many for a quarterback. No other Big 12 passer has topped 22 carries in a game this season (excluding Jesse Ertz, who had 24 against Vanderbilt), and most have not approached 15. But neither K-State coach Bill Snyder nor Delton seem to have a problem with that kind of volume.
“It’s part of playing quarterback here,” Delton said. “You are going to take some beatings every now and then.”
Toughness has become a necessity for all K-State quarterbacks in recent years. From former starters Collin Klein and Jake Waters to current passers Delton and Ertz, the Wildcats rarely take the field without a quarterback playing through some level of discomfort.
That may not change anytime soon.
The Wildcats could have lessened Delton’s workload against the Sooners by giving the ball to running back Alex Barnes, who ran for 108 yards and a touchdown on six carries.
But he was rarely on the field after breaking loose for 75 yards on the opening drive.
Snyder said that was by design. As the game went on, Oklahoma stacked defenders near the line of scrimmaging, making it difficult for K-State to continue handing the ball off to its running backs.
“Alex played well,” Snyder said. “The (second) snap out of the box he gets a nice run for a touchdown. It was well blocked and if you’re blocking things well and they don’t overload the box, we’ll give it to the running back. When they put enough people up there that you don’t have a blocker for all of them, then it puts you into the quarterback-run game or throwing the football, and the quarterback-run game was successful for us.
“They started inching their safeties down a little bit more and he was kind of halfway in the box. On the snap of the ball, if you showed run, he was down on the line of scrimmage very quickly and made some plays. Or they would bring the nickelback off the edge and do exactly the same things, and that’s where your passing game has to come into play and you utilize your backs in protection.”
Snyder would ideally like to limit Delton’s workload to about 12 carries, but not against a defense that he felt was vulnerable to quarterback keepers.
“Sometimes that’s what you have to do in order to get some movement out of the ball,” Snyder said. “I don’t want him to have to carry the ball 27 times in the course of a ballgame, but if that’s what it takes to move the ball. He ran the ball well and we got very positive yardage from him.”
K-State has taken a similar approach in recent years, and its quarterbacks have played through pain.
Klein, who maxed out at 35 carries in a game, routinely battled scrapes and bruises. Waters played half his senior season with a bum throwing shoulder. Ertz has missed the past two games with a knee injury, and suffered significant injuries as a sophomore and a junior.
Snyder anticipates Ertz will be healthy enough to return to his starting role and lead K-State against Kansas on Saturday. If he’s not ready, Delton may need to play through soreness.
That’s fine by him. He welcomes another heavy workload.
“I will be ready to go on Saturday,” Delton said. “Whatever they call, I will be good. I will be able to carry the load.”