STILLWATER — After they share the Boone Pickens Stadium turf for the Nov. 30 Bedlam game, is it possible Chuba Hubbard and Jalen Hurts will be reunited Dec. 14 in New York, seated side by side during the Heisman Trophy ceremony?
Through the first month of the college football season, Hurts has to be considered the Heisman frontrunner. The combination of his numbers and OU’s results locks the Sooner quarterback at the top of the conversation.
Through five Oklahoma State games, however, Hubbard’s productivity and artistry have been astounding. Before halftime of next week’s Big 12 game at Texas Tech, he will become the 16th Cowboy to rush for 1,000 yards in a single-season — and he will do it in only half of the 12-game regular season.
Hubbard was great again Saturday — rolling for 296 yards and 11.8 per attempt — and his defensive teammates were surprisingly really good as the Cowboys dealt Kansas State its first loss of the season and its coach his first loss in nearly two years.
Hubbard surpassed the 200-yard mark for the third time in five games and had the sixth-most single-game rushing yards in program history. Barry Sanders still has the record with his 332-yard masterpiece against Texas Tech in 1988.
The five-game stat line for Hubbard: 938 yards, 7.3 per carry, 10 touchdowns.
During this decade, only two major-college running backs — Stanford’s Bryce Love in 2017 and LSU’s Leonard Fournette in 2015 — had more than 938 rushing yards through the first five games of a season.
By the end of Saturday’s 26-13 Cowboy victory (in a game delayed for 72 minutes because of lightning), the OSU defense had limited K-State to 244 total yards and only eight first downs.
Before this game, Kansas State had converted on 58% of its third-down plays. Against Cowboys like linebacker Amen Ogbongbemiga, who is on the verge of becoming a special player, the Wildcats were 1-of-13 on third down.
Mike Gundy got the desired result Saturday, but OSU officially has a problem with getting tough yards in the red zone. It happened at Texas last week, and against Kansas State the Cowboys on four occasions settled for field goals after driving inside the Wildcat 10-yard line.
Ralph D. Russo, the Associated Press’ lead college football writer, tweeted about Hubbard: “Listen, no running back on a non-playoff team is winning a Heisman, but this guy is a baller.”
Since 2000, all but two Heisman recipients have been quarterbacks. The two exceptions were running backs Mark Ingram (2009) and Derrick Henry (2015), and they were members of Alabama national-title teams.
Russo is correct with his observation the Heisman typically goes to someone who stars for a championship-contending team. Plus, most Heisman candidates are promoted for months before the start of a season.
Hubbard made only four starts last season so no one expected him to push for Heisman consideration this season.
Three previous K-State opponents had 87 rushing attempts. On only three of those plays were there gains of at least 20 yards. Hubbard gashed the Wildcat defense on runs of 53, 20, 84 and 44 yards.
His 84-yard scoring dash gave Oklahoma State a 23-3 lead over an opposing coach — first-year K-State head man Chris Klieman — who isn’t accustomed to trailing at all, much less by 20 points.
What were you doing on Nov. 4, 2017?
Unless it was your birthday or a date on which there was something of a personally monumental nature, you probably have no recollection of Nov. 4, 2017.
Klieman probably has a vivid memory of that date. He was on the losing end of a college football upset — when South Dakota State defeated FCS superpower North Dakota State 33-21.
Now approaching the midway mark of his first Kansas State season, Klieman hadn’t lost since Nov. 4, 2017 — until he crossed paths with Chuba Hubbard.
“He is a great football player,” said Klieman, whose personal streak of 24 consecutive wins ended.
If by now Hubbard hasn’t commanded the attention of every Heisman voter and all significant national media members, then what must the Cowboys third-year sophomore do?
He’s got to do what Sanders did in 1988: stack huge yardage totals, week after week. Hubbard’s got to have another big game at Texas Tech, and then another against Baylor, and another at Iowa State, and so on.
Surely a 2,000-yard season would result in a flight to New York for Hubbard, a 20-year-old Canadian who has become one of the very best of all Gundy-coached Cowboys.
With his highest-level speed and uncommon balance, Hubbard belongs on the All-Gundy list with Russell Okung, Kendall Hunter, Dez Bryant, Brandon Weeden, Justin Blackmon, Mason Rudolph and James Washington.