HOUSTON, TX — Skylar Thompson threw touchdowns as Kansas State defeated a depleted LSU 42-20 at NRG Stadium in the 2022 Texas Bowl Tuesday night.
The Wildcats came in at full strength and never looked back after taking an early lead on a Thompson passing touchdown to Malik Knowles in the first. Playing his final game, Thompson thrived in high-pressure situations. The senior started 7-7 on third down passing attempts, and tossed two early touchdown passes.
Thompson, who was named game MVP, was quick to credit his teammates after the win.
“I wouldn’t be standing here without our offensive line. Our receivers, tight ends all made plays,” Thompson said. “I love this team, I love this university- I’m a Wildcat through and through- I’ll be a Wildcat the rest of my life.
LSU entered the game as seven-point underdogs—but that might have been generous in hindsight. Due to injuries, positive COVID tests, player opt outs, and a slew of transfers, Tigers entered the matchup with just 38 scholarship players available — none which were quarterbacks. Normally, FBS schools dress 55 to 70 such players.
Freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, likely LSU’s starter next season, would’ve burned his redshirt season if he played in Tuesday’s game, so wide receiver Jontre Kirklin made his first career start under center.
Kansas State took advantage and dominated time of possession in the game- holding the ball nearly 12 of 15 first quarter minutes- and extended that as the game progressed. It also recorded an 18-play, 9-minute drive in the second quarter- which set a bowl record. This put pressure on Kirklin and the LSU offense to attempt lower-percentage plays in hopes of putting any points on the board.
“Skylar Thompson is pretty special,” head coach Chris Klieman said postgame. “I absolutely love that young man. This senior class has been phenomenal. We finished (this season) out the way we wanted to.”
Running back Deuce Vaughan scored four total touchdowns- three on the ground and one through the air- to set a Kansas State bowl record.
The win marks Kansas State’s second in the Texas Bowl- which was cancelled due to COVID-19 last year- and first since 2016. The Wildcats also appeared in the first ever iteration of the game in 2006- a loss for Rutgers
As for next year, Brian Kelly takes over as head coach of LSU with the Tigers’ next game. The loss sent the Tigers to a 6-7 record for the first time since 1999- the year before the program hired Nick Saban. Kelly was in attendance for Tuesday’s game and was interviewed on the ESPN broadcast in the second quarter- awkwardly, while Kirklin threw an interception.
There are high hopes and an immediate expectation to win for Kelly- who inherits a program that just two seasons prior went 15-0 with a College Football Playoff National Championship in 2020.
The barebones roster and disappointing result reflects the nature of the rebuild Kelly is taking on, but for Kansas State- the bowl win represents the positive trend of the program under Kleimann.
LSU opens its season against Florida State on Sep. 4 in New Orleans, while Kansas State gets things going in 2022 against South Dakota.