The Hangover: Texas Bowl vs. LSU

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(Graphic by Sarah Unruh | Collegian Media Group)

Kansas State beat down a depleted LSU team in the Texas Bowl Tuesday night, sending senior quarterback Skylar Thompson and the rest of the class out with a dominating performance. The Wildcats took down the Tigers 42-20 in Houston, Texas.

The big question-mark for K-State coming into the game was just how good its offense would look with an interim offensive coordinator. The answer — pretty darn good.

The Wildcats looked like an early 2010s Bill Snyder squad at times with Snyder’s former quarterback Collin Klein calling the shots. They moved the ball down the field methodically, had long drives and converted on third and medium.

K-State had touchdown drives and 11 and 18 plays and took over nine minutes off the clock in just one drive bridging from the first to the second quarter.

Most importantly, K-State showed some schematic changes and in-game adjustments on that side of the ball, which was refreshing after a couple of years of sticking to the game plan when it was not working.

The offense showed the ability — and willingness — to speed up the tempo when it wanted to. It also used a lot of quick routes on third down that seemed to have been missing from the scheme. That allowed Thompson to get the ball out quickly and negate LSU’s pass rush.

“What we wanted to do more of was controlling the tempo and keeping the defense on their heels,” Thompson said. “You saw us get in the huddle, you saw us get up in turbo and go fast, you saw us double-look. We did a whole bunch of different things.”

They were also more aggressive with a lead than I remember seeing them this season. They had a foot on the gas pedal the whole game and never really got bogged down.

They borrowed a play out of the Kansas City Chiefs’ playbook on third and short.

When it became clear early that K-State would not get to run slow-developing outside runs because of the speed on LSU’s defense, Klein shifted his game plan. They sent running back Deuce Vaughn up the middle with a lead blocker and found other ways to neutralize the pass rush.

On defense, K-State started the game really strong. LSU ran just six offensive plays in the first quarter and netted -2 yards.

The issue for K-State’s defense later in the game was discipline-related. The Wildcats committed too many personal fouls in the third quarter and really struggled to wrap up and tackle late.

I like a team that has a bit of an edge and talks a bit of trash, but when you wind up committing more than one personal foul, it’s time to reign it in. The penalties weren’t all that costly this time around, but in a closer game, a free 15 yards can make all the difference.

K-State also allowed a converted WR to throw three touchdown passes (one of which was on the last play of the game). That would be concerning, but all of them were after the game was well out of reach.

KEY MATCH-UPS:

In my weekly Know Your Opponent article, I predicted three storylines or match-ups to watch. Let’s see how I did.

Bowl Game Woes:

This was about K-State’s struggle in bowl games against talented teams in the past.

LSU sure was depleted, but out of their starting 11 on defense, according to their bowl game depth chart and 247’s recruiting rankings, they had six 4-star and one 5-star player starting. The offense had six 4-stars out of 11 starters. They were talented, even if they were inexperienced.

Recruiting rankings aren’t necessarily indicative of individual talent — as K-State fans are quick to tell you — but in large numbers, they tend to predict success. The teams consistently at the top also recruit more 4 and 5-stars than anyone else.

Make no mistake, the team LSU was able to field was more talented on paper than K-State’s, and the Wildcats still managed to move to 10-13 all-time in bowl games. Head coach Chris Klieman is only the second coach in K-State history to win a bowl game.

One Last Ride:

For his part, Thompson was as good as I can remember him being. He was patient, moved around the pocket to avoid rushers, only scrambled when necessary and delivered some really nice balls downfield.

He was highly efficient at 21-28 for 259 yards and three touchdowns and netted 10 yards on five rushes, including two sacks, since college stats count sacks as negative rushing yards. He also managed to scramble for a huge first down.

I don’t know if Thompson will ever play another snap of competitive football. He could get a look as a late draft pick or an undrafted free agent, but I think it’s unlikely he becomes a regular NFL contributor. He could also get a legitimate shot at success in Canada.

“My goal was the be healthy for this game and to go out on my terms,” Thompson said. “I’m going to walk away from this on two feet standing and giving it everything I’ve got.”

If that was his last game — what a way for a K-State great to go out. He even got the traditional Senior Day curtain call after getting hurt in his real Senior Day.

Coaching Carousel:

This isn’t a “Collin Klein should be the next offensive coordinator” article. The sample size is too small to make that claim, and I’d like to see K-State do its due diligence. K-State fans can certainly be excited if Klein does nail down the role in the coming weeks, though. It was a heck of an offensive performance.

The Wildcat offense amassed 442 yards on 64 plays for an excellent 7.1 yards per play. Excluding the drive where they got the ball 20 seconds before the half, they scored 42 points on eight drives with 5.25 points per drive.

Klein is also a Wildcat through and through. He’s one of the best quarterbacks in K-State history, was one game short of playing for a National Championship and has coached at K-State for seven seasons.

The offense seemed to work and fit schematically with what Klieman has indicated he wants. Klieman has also indicated that the players and coaches have rallied around Klein.

“I loved his preparation. He had a great body of work,” Klieman said. “The guys love Collin Klein, and they’re going to play their tails off for Collin Klein. They should, because he’s K-State in my mind.”

Thompson also backed up his quarterback coach’s performance as interim offensive coordinator.

“I felt like that was our best offensive performance of the season,” Thompson said. “We were just firing on all cylinders. You could just feel the aggressiveness of coach Klein’s play-calling.”

PREDICTION:

I predicted a 27-21 win for the Wildcats and noted that there was so much up in the air about this game that I had really no clue what to expect. I got LSU’s score almost exactly right, as it would have been 21 had they been allowed to kick the extra point at the end of regulation.

What I didn’t anticipate, however, was Thompson and Klein’s ability to push the ball downfield all game and just dominate from the start.

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Hi! I'm Nathan Enserro, a graduate student from Olathe, Kansas, working on a Masters in Mass Communication. I graduated in spring 2020 with a Bachelor's of Science in strategic communications from K-State. This is my fourth year covering K-State sports for the Collegian.