OSU football: Chuba Hubbard is the most electric player in college football, the most important player for the Cowboys
STILLWATER — With the victory won and the alma mater sung, the Oklahoma State student section broke into one last serenade Saturday evening.
“Chu-ba! Chu-ba! Chu-ba!”
Chuba Hubbard deserved that and more. Rose petals at his feet. A laurel wreath for his head. Whatever you can dream up, the Cowboy running back has earned every bit of it.
On a day OSU continued a second-half-of-the-season rally with an impressive 34-27 victory against TCU, there were many standouts. Receiver Dillon Stoner. The offensive line. Offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson. Safety Kolby Harvell-Peel. The defensive pass rushers. Defensive coordinator Jim Knowles.
But no one was more important than Hubbard.
Chubacabra cut loose.
“There’s no question that he’s the best not only running back but maybe college football player this year,” Stoner said.
Hubbard probably won’t win the Heisman Trophy, but it’s not his fault. The award has a bias toward quarterbacks, specifically quarterbacks on top-five teams. If you don’t play that position, you’re almost certainly out of the running.
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But Hubbard keeps making his case.
He rushed for 223 yards on 20 carries Saturday. No other player has ever rushed for that many yards against TCU since Gary Patterson became head coach. The head Frog has been in Fort Worth nearly two decades. Has always coached a hard-nosed, defensive-minded brand of football. And no player has ever gone for more than 200 yards rushing against his Purple People Eaters.
Hubbard almost had 200 yards in the second half alone, only falling 8 yards shy.
The previous game high was 188 yards by former Oklahoma standout Samaje Perine in 2015.
What’s more, Hubbard’s 92-yard touchdown run midway through the third quarter was the longest run ever against TCU during the Patterson era.
Asked to describe that run, Hubbard shook his head.
“I really don’t remember stuff like that,” his admitted. “My adrenaline is going too much. I just know the offensive line made a big hole, and I just started running.”
That play will be on an endless highlight loop these next few days. Ditto for Hubbard’s other long touchdown run, a 62-yard scamper that finally rewarded the OSU defense with points after a turnover.
But for as big and fun and impactful as those plays were, Hubbard separates from every other running back in college football with how he turns nothing into something. He takes doomed runs and makes 5 or 6 yards all the time.
Those plays aren’t often remembered, but on the Cowboys’ final offensive possession Saturday, Hubbard had three of them. They went for 3, 8 and 4 yards. Nothing big. But each could’ve easily been half of what it was.
“There’s probably three runs that we shouldn’t have had any yards,” Cowboy coach Mike Gundy said. “That’s a big deal. Big difference in your playcalling for your coordinator.”
Big difference for the Cowboys, too, as that drive ended with a Matt Ammendola 43-yard field goal that extended OSU’s lead to two scores.
Throughout the spring and summer, Hubbard worked on his patience, and even now, it’s a regular topic of conversation with running back coach John Wozniak.
“Sometimes it’s not going to be a clean look, so I just try to feel it out,” Hubbard said. “O line’s gonna move guys around, so there’ll be a hole somewhere. I just try to figure it out, be patient, and then once I see it, just hit it.”
He hit it a lot Saturday. Hubbard has had better days statistically this season. He went for 296 yards against Kansas State and 256 yards against Tulsa. But there was no game where Hubbard was more valuable.
The mid-week, season-ending injury to Tylan Wallace set the OSU offense into uncharted territory Saturday. Sure, the Cowboys have great depth and quality talent at receiver, but they don’t have another Tylan Wallace. No one does.
TCU knew OSU would be feeling out things in the passing game. That meant the Horned Frogs could key more on Hubbard.
But he wouldn’t be denied.
“I was definitely playing for those guys,” Hubbard said of Wallace, Johnny Wilson and Tre Sterling, who were all injured Wednesday and missed Saturday's game. “Those guys are a big part of our team. We had to step up for them.
“I just did what I was supposed to do.”
What he does is super special. Super fun, too. His speed. His elusiveness. He even had a little showmanship on that 62-yard jaunt, doing a sprinter’s lean like he was breaking the finish-line tape when he hit the goal line.
He seemed a little sheepish after the game about what he’d done, but he admitted it was fun.
“It kind of just felt like we’re getting back to Cowboy football,” he said.
Thing is, you'd have to get back several decades to find a Cowboy running back like him. He might not win every award, might not claim every accolade, but no player in college football is more electric, no Cowboy more important than Chuba Hubbard.
Jenni Carlson: Jenni can be reached at 405-475-4125 or email@example.com. Like her at facebook.com/JenniCarlsonOK or follow her at twitter.com/jennicarlson_ok.