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K-State QB dilemma looms large in wake of win over KU

November 1, 2017 GMT

A Kansas State quarterback quandary that began three weeks ago is only picking up steam.

Starter Jesse Ertz hasn’t played since Oct. 7, when he injured his knee in the second half of a double-overtime loss to Texas. Alex Delton came on in relief and has started the last three games.

Then, during last week’s Sunflower Showdown win over Kansas, Delton gave way to third-stringer Skylar Thompson.

Playing the entire second half, Thompson completed 4 of 6 passes for 40 yards; he logged 10 carries for 39 yards as well.

K-State’s options at quarterback run deep — but head coach Bill Snyder would like to see Ertz return, and he anticipates he will.

Snyder just isn’t sure when that will be.

“He will be back on the field,” Snyder said Monday during the Big 12 Conference’s weekly teleconference. “At least that’s certainly my understanding, unless something happened overnight that I’m unaware of. Jesse should be back on the field — how quickly remains to be seen.”

The problem comes at a crossroads for the Wildcats, who, after enduring a three-game skid, ousted KU ahead of a road matchup with Texas Tech on Saturday.

If the helmet-to-helmet hit that forced Delton out of last week’s game isn’t serious, the Hays native figures to be in line for his fourth start in as many games.

If he isn’t, though, Snyder may not be losing much if Thompson has to start.

“I was pleased with his poise in the course of the ballgame, and consequently because of that, he managed the ballgame quite well,” Snyder said of Thompson. “I thought he threw the ball fine and ran the ball when he had to. Maybe not quite as prolific as Alex might, but nevertheless ran it reasonably well. I was very pleased with his first-time performance.”

This puts Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury in a bind. The Red Raiders’ defense has allowed 30 or more points in each of its last three losses.

Knowing which quarterback to prepare for could help, but Kingsbury has his eyes on all three of K-State’s.

“You have to be ready for any of the three,” Kingsbury said. “I don’t think we will know until Saturday in pregame warm-ups who the starter is going to be. They each have a different skill set, and all three have been effective in scoring points. ... I think each one of those guys is talented and brings his own unique talent to that offense.”

Snyder knows the risk he runs to his quarterbacks with the way he prefers to play them. Long an advocate of dual-threat signal-callers — with the exception of 2015 graduate Jake Waters — Snyder’s run-pass quarterbacks have taken a beating in his time at K-State.

This season has not differed.

“Our quarterbacks,” Snyder said, “are probably more susceptible to taking more hits during the course of a ballgame than a pure drop-back passer might be.”

If the unofficial diagnosis Snyder gave after Saturday’s game is any indication, though, Delton may be in good shape.

“What is his prognosis?” Snyder asked on Saturday. “Well, I think he’s prepared to have a snack and eat some food and get on the bus to go back and get ready to play another one.”

Saturday’s kickoff between K-State and Texas Tech is set for 11 a.m.