LAWRENCE — John Hubert wanted a senior-day do-over and the rival Jayhawks obliged.
Behind a career-high 220 rushing yards and a 21-yard touchdown, Hubert led the Wildcats past Kansas 31-10 on Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
(Kansas State running back John Hubert runs through a big hole opened up by the offensive line on Saturday. The senior had a career-high 220 yards and a touchdown in the Wildcats’ 31-10 victory over Kansas at Memorial Stadium in Lawrence).
It was K-State’s fifth straight victory over its in-state rival.
Hubert’s big day came at a perfect time for the Wildcats, who struggled much of the day to move the ball through the air. Then again, the senior running back was quite motivated after his last two ballgames.
Following his 157-yard performance at Texas Tech three weeks ago, Hubert tallied just 42 yards on 15 carries in the last two games combined. But losing to Oklahoma on senior day last week was the real kick in the pants for Hubert.
“I just came out with a chip on my shoulder,” said Hubert, who is now just 32 yards away from reaching 1,000 for the season, something he’s never done at K-State. “I was frustrated with the Oklahoma game — it was senior night, my last home game at K-State and I didn’t get to come out with a victory. So, for my last regular-season game, I just wanted to come out and give it all I got.”
He did just that, averaging more than 7 yards per carry and breaking off seven runs for 10 or more yards — including a 41-yard scamper in the fourth quarter.
“He ran extremely hard and that’s what has been important for him,” K-State coach Bill Snyder said. “He reads holes well and sometimes he gets to dancing a little bit. Today, he didn’t. He got his pads down, made people miss him, spun off of blocks and ran hard. I was really proud of his effort.”
Hubert was about the only real bright spot for the Wildcats offensively on Saturday. Quarterback Jake Waters was just 10-of-21 passing for 160 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Tyler Lockett and Tramaine Thompson combined to catch six passes for 70 yards. Tight end Zach Trujillo had a 35-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, while fullback Glenn Gronkowski scored on a 29-yarder in the second to give the Wildcats a 21-0 lead.
(Kansas State senior running back John Hubert scores on a 21-yard touchdown run in the first quarter on Saturday in Lawrence. Hubert finished with a career-high 220 yards on 30 carries to lead the Wildcats past Kansas 31-10).
After scoring touchdowns on three straight possessions in the first half — all three drives taking less than 2 minutes — it seemed the Wildcats (7-5, 5-4 Big 12) might hand the Jayhawks (3-9, 1-8) another embarrassing blowout loss in the Sunflower Showdown series.
But KU was able to climb back into the game after K-State punted on back-to-back possessions. The second punt gave the Jayhawks great field position at the K-State 49 and seven plays later KU was in the end zone on an 11-yard pass from Jake Heaps to Jimmay Mundine to make it 21-7 with 3:53 to go before halftime.
That wasn’t the end of the Jayhawks’ first-half scoring, however, as KU again took advantage of more great field position when the Wildcats’ Zach Nemechek fumbled a kickoff return at K-State’s own 42. The return — on a shallow pooch kick to the corner — came on a re-kick by Kansas after the Wildcats accepted a 5-yard offsides penalty on the first try.
Kansas got to the Wildcats’ 14, but the drive stalled and the Jayhawks had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Ron Doherty to cut into the Wildcats’ lead at 21-10 with 1:06 remaining in the second quarter.
“We made a lot of mistakes, didn’t get ourselves into the best plays, had some assignment errors,” Snyder said. “You name it, we just weren’t very good.”
But K-State was really good on defense, especially in the second half when K-State came away with turnovers on four straight possessions — three interceptions and a fumble — to shut out the Jayhawks. Dante Barnett had two picks and Dorrian Roberts had the other, while Dylan Schellenberg recovered a fumble by KU running back James Sims, who finished with 82 yards and two lost fumbles on 22 carries.
“It seemed like we caused a turnover almost every possession today,” said Barnett, who also had a fumble recovery in the first half. “It was big. That’s what we wanted to do today.”
It wasn’t every possession, but it may have seemed like it for the Jayhawks, who finished with just 223 yards of total offense — 72 rushing and 151 passing between Heaps and Montell Cozart — to go along with six total turnovers.
“When you turn it over a bunch of times, the chances you have to come back goes out the window,” KU second-year coach Charlie Weis said. “Turnovers are the thing that change the game more than any other element in football.”
K-State put the game away in the second half a 15-yard rush by Waters in the third quarter and a 31-yard field goal by Ian Patterson, who was in for Jack Cantele for the second straight game.
The win over the Jayhawks completes a second-half run to the season by K-State that saw the Wildcats go 5-1 down the stretch. That’s after losing four of their first six games to start the season. Now, the Wildcats will have to wait a week to find out where they’re headed later this month for their bowl game. The Holiday Bowl in San Diego remains the most likely destination for K-State.
“We never game in, kept fighting back and fighting back, regardless of the close games we lost,” Lockett said. “We always came back the next game fighting. That showed here today.”