As fans stormed the field of Bill Snyder Family Stadium, the hopes and aspirations for the Kansas State Wildcats reached the highest point of the year. The destruction of the then-No. 9 Oklahoma State Cowboys in a 48-0 rout turned the season around. Backup quarterback Will Howard was famously sprung up on the shoulders of his fellow teammates and students and has now been thrown into a tantalizing debate. Should he remain the starting quarterback for the Wildcats or should Adrian Martinez resume his role as the starter?
Each side to the argument has its fair points and reasoning. While many lean heavily one way or another, the team decided to be supportive together. On the sidelines, Martinez continuously encouraged Howard as he ascended to a new level of play in his career. Head coach Chris Klieman stated in his weekly press conference that both players may have the chance to continue the year as the starter, propping up both. Keeping the team together is incredibly important in this process with the inevitable decision still needing to be made.
Martinez and Howard each bring different styles of play to the table. Martinez has become one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in college football, rushing for around 550 yards in just over six games. On the other hand, Howard has brought a whole new level of balance to the offense. His willingness to give wide receivers Kade Warner, Malik Knowels and Phillip Brooks the chance to make plays has opened up a new avenue of offensive production. The big-time play ability from Howard has provided a relief to running back Deuce Vaughn in the run game by balancing out the offense. Differing from that balance, Martinez’s style of play places nearly all the emphasis on running the football. Having two runners out of the backfield doesn’t necessarily make the rushing attack better.
K-State ran for less yards per game in the two weeks with Howard but nearly matched the Martinez-led offense in yards per carry. While Martinez provides a second running threat, Howard’s inclination to throw the ball down the field forces the defense to align more against the pass. As a result, Vaughn has less defenders to worry about up front, opening up the middle of the field for Vaughn to not be met by an influx of bodies. Placing Vaughn in the best position to succeed should be near the top of the team’s priorities as the star of the offense. His efficiency as a runner has grown with Howard as quarterback, rushing for over 1.5 yards more per carry than in the first six games and averaging more rushing yards per game as well.
The offense has seen a major difference in the past two weeks, but there is one last discussion to be had about the decision on quarterback. Entering his junior season, it was known Howard planned to redshirt the season to give himself an extra year of eligibility. Redshirt eligibility rules dictate a player can only play in four games to maintain redshirt eligibility. Klieman mentioned at his weekly press conference that he would have a discussion with Howard on his redshirt eligibility. Concurrently, Martinez is playing in his final season of college football, leaving no issues with him continuing as the starter.
The decision Klieman and the staff have to make is no easy one. Both quarterbacks have proven the ability to lead the team to success in their own way. With that being said, as long as Howard continues to play winning football for the Wildcats, there is no on-the-field reason to take him out as starter. If Martinez were to take back the reins, it would be imperative that full support returns to him. The offense would also need to adjust the scheme towards a heavier focus on passing the ball as it has with Howard.
Editor’s note: The Luke’s Locker graphic was originally not in the online edition of the article. It was a late addition to the online story. The graphic can also be found in the print edition.