Texas A&M sophomore quarterback Jake Hubenak looked like an overwhelmed, first-time starter during Wednesday night’s 27-21 loss to Louisville in the Music City Bowl.
Hubenak seemed uncomfortable in the pocket and the entire Aggies passing game appeared out of sync for most of the game. However, Hubenak found his rhythm in the late stages and actually kept A&M alive.
The former junior college quarterback finished the night completing 28-of-48 passes for 307 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and a fumble. Considering the circumstances, Hubenak’s performance was far from a failure.
The former Blinn College star trimmed the deficit to six points thanks to an impressive eight-play, 86-yard drive in the fourth quarter that resulted in a 29-yard touchdown pass to freshman wide receiver Christian Kirk. Hubenak led the Aggies down the field on their last drive, but came 24 yards short of leading A&M to an improbable comeback.
Texas A&M coach Kevin Sumlin said he was impressed by how his quarterback played despite arduous circumstances.
“He really gave us a chance to win the game at the end,” Sumlin said. “It’s a heck of a position for a guy that makes his first start and a lot of guys rallied around him.”
The one thing Texas A&M needed to do was establish the running game to help acclimate Hubenak into the game. A strong running game can be an inexperienced quarterback’s best friend, but the Aggies were unable to get it going on a consistent basis. The Aggies finished with 139 yards on 38 carries, which averaged out to 3.5 yards per carry.
Texas A&M faced 10 third-down situations where the down and distance was six yards or more. Hubenak was put in a fair share of tough situations and the Aggies converted on only 6-of-18 third down situations on the night.
Tailback Tra Carson gave his quarterback credit for leading the Aggies and keeping his emotions in check.
“Jake’s a guy that keeps his composure the whole time,” Carson said. “You really can’t tell. He keeps a straight face throughout the whole game and whether he makes a mistake or he makes a big play. To me, he never seems rattled and I think he did a great job of taking control of the huddle and giving us a good chance to win at the end.”
Hubenak gave the Aggies a chance at the end, but the question will be whether he gave himself a shot at the starting job in 2016. Hubenak started in the Music City Bowl because quarterbacks Kyle Allen and Kyler Murray both transferred and left a gigantic void at the position.
Sumlin does not have a quarterback signed for his 2016 recruiting class. Texas A&M has been tabbed as the favorite to land Oklahoma transfer Trevor Knight and he could be viewed as a short-term upgrade over Hubenak.
Hubenak is 0-1 as a starter, but he garnered plenty of praise from Sumlin for stepping in and helping his team compete through dire straits.
“For a guy to come in and do what he did and our team to give us a chance at the end of the game with everything that happened for the 55 minutes beforehand, you got to be proud of him.”
Sumlin may be proud of Hubenak tonight, but did this small sample size show Sumlin enough to make him the favorite for the starting job when spring ball picks up in 2016? That’s something the coach will have to figure out rather quickly during what should be an interesting offseason in College Station.