SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — John Hubert is so close he can almost taste it.
A year ago the Kansas State running back fell just 30 yards short of reaching the 1,000-yard mark for the season.
This year the situation is similar, as the junior leads the Wildcats with 892 rushing yards and needs just 108 yards on Thursday night when fifth-ranked K-State faces No. 4 Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl to give the Cats their first 1,000 rusher of the season.
“I’ve got the opportunity this year,” Hubert said Monday. “Like I said at the beginning of the season, I want to get that 1,000 yards and there’s still opportunities for that. I’m only 108 yards away, and that’s 108 yards that I think I’m capable of doing this game.”
Hubert is right, as he’s reached the century mark four times this season. The Ducks (11-1) have allowed five players to rush for at least 100 yards, but Hubert hasn’t done it himself since Oct. 6 when he rushed for 101 on 10 carries against Kansas.
The Waco, Texas, native started the season a tear, rushing for at least 100 yards in four of the Wildcats’ first five games, including 152 yards against Missouri State, 106 yards against Miami and 130 yards in the big win at Oklahoma.
One thing Hubert hasn’t had a problem doing this season is finding the end zone. A year ago Hubert had just three rushing scores, while his quarterback Collin Klein rushed for a record 27 touchdowns.
This season, however, the ball has been shared a little bit more, as Hubert has crossed the goal line 15 times. Klein still has more, though, with 22.
“Coach (Bill Snyder) told me he wanted to start getting me the ball more once we get in the red zone, and he did,” Hubert said. “I had the opportunity to get the ball and I made the best out of it. I got in the end zone 15 times and I just couldn’t have done it without my offensive line. I have great people around me to help me out.”
At just 5-feet-7 and 191 pounds, Hubert makes the most of his smaller stature, as he tries to pound his way through opponents’ defenses.
“He’s not really that big, but he plays like he’s 230,” K-State receiver Chris Harper said. “You very rarely see him tackled by just one guy. He’s running over guys so much bigger than him. He’s like our power back even though he’s not a big guy, which definitely gives it a different element and adds a huge element to our offense.”
Hubert has also been key to freeing Klein up in the running game as well. The two play off each other, as Klein has just two less yards than Hubert this season at 890.
“He’s a great player, obviously very athletically gifted and runs extremely hard,” Klein said. “He plays a lot bigger than he is…I really appreciate his tenacity.”
Standing between Hubert’s 1,000 yards and the Wildcats’ record 12th win this season on Thursday will be a Ducks defense that ranks 46th nationally against the run and fourth in the Pac-12.
Hubert said he’s only focused on getting a win against Oregon and not other things like records.
“Right now, we’re just worrying about preparing for Oregon and practicing,” he said. “We’re just trying to prepare and come to the game with a full head of steam ready to go against Oregon… It’s all just coming together. We’re getting ready for this big game.”
The Wildcats and Ducks will kick off at 7:30 p.m. (CST) from University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. — televised on ESPN.