The TaxAct Texas Bowl proved to be a dominating performance for the Kansas State Wildcats over the LSU Tigers inside NRG Stadium. The Bayou Bengals played with just 39 scholarship players in the game. The Wildcats won in blowout fashion. Being depleted on both sides of the ball put LSU in a tough spot against a K-State team that finished the regular season 7-5. With the win, the Wildcats improve to 8-5 overall for the 2021 season. LSU falls to 6-7 and will look ahead to 2022 and the start of the Brian Kelly era.
Texas Bowl Recap: Kansas State Throttles LSU 42-14
The Wildcats opened the game with a 25-yard touchdown pass from Skylar Thompson to Malik Knowles to go up 7-0 with 9:13 left in the first quarter. KSU’s first drive went for 11 plays and 75 yards, while taking nearly six minutes off the clock. That lone scoring drive for K-State would be the only score of the opening quarter. In the second quarter, the Wildcats found the end zone and took a 14-0 lead on a one-yard run by Deuce Vaughn. With 7:01 left before the half, Thompson threw a five-yard touchdown pass to Knowles to put the Wildcats up 21-0.
Late in the second quarter, LSU finally found the end zone on a 23-yard pass from Jontre Kirklin to Jaray Jenkins. Kirklin, a former quarterback in high school, started under center for the Tigers and finished the game. With Garrett Nussmeier unable to retain his redshirt and play, interim head coach Brad Davis had to make a not so easy decision as to which player to start under center.
Wildcats Dominate Second Half
Kansas State led 21-7 at the half. As if that seemed bad enough for LSU, the Tigers were outscored in the second half. In the third, K-State went up 28-7 on an 18-yard run by Vaughn with 8:46 left in the quarter. That score would be the only one in the third, but it was already too late for LSU to mount a comeback. To begin the fourth, Thompson tossed a two-yard touchdown to Vaughn just four seconds into the final quarter of play to put the Wildcats up 35-7. After a three-and-out by the Tigers, Vaughn found the end zone for his third score of the game with 10:15 left as the Cats would go up 42-7. LSU scored in the fourth on a 15-yard pass from Kirklin to Malik Nabers to make it a 42-14 game.
LSU Struggles on Both Sides of the Ball
The Tigers struggled from the get-go in this game. Without many starters, the offense had a tough time gaining key yards early on in the game. In the first half, LSU totaled just 80 total yards of offense. On the first drive, the Tigers totaled three plays for -2 yards. The second drive for LSU ended in three plays for zero yards. When the Bayou Bengals found the end zone, that drive went for 13 plays and 75 yards. However, LSU ended the game with just points and 221 yards. With just 138 passing yards, LSU struggled under center all game. In the ground game, Kirklin led the way with 61 rushing yards on 11 attempts. Running back Corey Kiner added 53 yards on 14 carries.
Defensively, the Tigers gave up 42 points and 442 total yards. Kansas State was able to move the ball freely down the field all game long. On that side of the ball, LSU was down the majority of its starters. The Tigers were unable to force any turnovers and allowed 22 first downs.
TaxAct Texas Bowl Final Thoughts
The TaxAct Texas Bowl wasn’t a good showing by the LSU Tigers. On the other side, Kansas State put forth a dominating victory and drew up the perfect game plan. For LSU, the program can now shift its focus to next season after a disappointing 6-7 finish to 2021. But for Kansas State, the Wildcats can celebrate a big victory to finish 8-5 on the season.