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Two years ago at this time, LSU was 14-0, No. 1 in the nation and just nine days away from beating Clemson for the national championship.
It’s just two years later, and the Tigers completed a free fall to an 11-12 record with a 42-20 loss to Kansas State in the Texas Bowl on Tuesday night. The loss drops LSU to 6-7 for its first losing season since 1999.
With a roster steadily depleting since the mid-season firing of coach Ed Orgeron, the Tigers took the field with just 45 scholarship players out of a possible 85 with a wide receiver, Jontre Kirklin, at quarterback and an offensive line coach on staff only since June, Brad Davis, as the acting head coach.
One of Orgeron’s favorite slogans since becoming interim coach in 2016 through his national championship on Jan. 13, 2020 was “Flip the Script.”
New LSU coach Brian Kelly, who replaced Orgeron after the regular season, did not coach the team in the bowl or in bowl practices. Neither did any of his new hires.
Kirklin completed 7 of 11 passes for 138 yards with three touchdowns while rushing 11 times for 61 yards. Kirklin found wide receiver Jaray Jenkins for a 23-yard touchdown with 20 seconds to go before halftime to cut Kansas State’s lead to 21-7.
The Wildcats (8-5) took a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter and made it 21-0 with 7:01 to go in the first half.
Kansas State poured it on with three consecutive touchdowns for a 42-7 lead with 10:15 left to play.
Tailback Deuce Vaughn shredded LSU’s defense with 146 yards and three touchdowns on 21 carries. Quarterback Skylar Thompson completed 21 of 28 passes for 259 yards and another three touchdowns.
Kirklin threw a 15-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Malik Nabers with 3:35 to go to get the Tigers within 42-14. He threw an 81-yard touchdown to wide receiver Chris Hilton Jr. on the last play of the game for the 42-20 final.