Kansas State dominates short-handed LSU 42-20 in Texas Bowl

Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports
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HOUSTON — Deuce Vaughn and Kansas State finished a streaky season on a positive note with a dominant 42-20 win over short-handed LSU in the Texas Bowl.

Vaughn, a sophomore running back and first-team All-American as an all-purpose player, rushed for 146 yards on 21 carries. He scored four touchdowns – three rushing and one receiving.

“The aggressiveness of our play calling opened up the running game,” Vaughn said. “Everybody was making plays, and our O-line stayed committed to the fight against a really good defense.”

Kansas State (8-5) also got a strong performance from quarterback Skylar Thompson, who returned to make his final collegiate start after missing the regular-season finale with an ankle injury.

“For him to be on point like he was and throwing strikes, he was phenomenal,” Kansas State coach Chris Klieman said. “To see him go out like that was huge. He wanted to play well in this moment and he did.”

Thompson completed 21 of 28 passes for 259 yards and three touchdowns and was chosen Texas Bowl MVP. Malik Knowles had two touchdown catches and 42 yards receiving.

“It flew by, but it was a special way to end it, for sure,” Thompson said. “Holy smokes, I couldn’t have drawn up a better way to finish it than tonight.”

While LSU (6-7) had a tough time slowing Vaughn and Thompson, the Tigers had another uphill battle on offense.

With starting quarterback Max Johnson having transferred to Texas A&M, backup Myles Brennan recovering from surgery and a third-string freshman that would have had to burn his redshirt to play, LSU entered the game with a big question mark under center.

The Tigers turned to senior receiver Jontre Kirklin, who hadn’t played quarterback since high school in 2016. Kirklin had only played in 25 games over five seasons, including his first two years as a cornerback.

The Tigers didn’t get a first down until late in the second quarter. By that time, Kansas State already had 12 first downs and a 21-0 lead. LSU later scored on that drive, though, a 23-yard touchdown catch by Jaray Jenkins.

Kirklin was 7-of-11 passing for 138 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions while also rushing for 61 yards on 11 carries. He delivered an 81-yard touchdown pass to Chris Hilton Jr. as time expired.

The Tigers were led by interim coach Brad Davis, the offensive line coach who was filling in during the transition from Ed Orgeron to former Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly. LSU announced in December that Davis would be returning on Kelly’s staff as the offensive line coach.

Davis said LSU had just 38 scholarship players available for the game, but backing out was never an option.

“We don’t stand back from a challenge,” Davis said. “There was never a thought in our mind about not playing this game. We fully expected to win.”

Kansas State appeared to have a slight edge in the makeup of the crowd, despite Baton Rouge, Louisiana, being nearly 500 miles closer to Houston than Manhattan, Kansas.

The Wildcats led 21-7 at halftime.

Kansas State enjoyed its most lopsided win over an SEC opponent in school history, improving to 5-17 against the conference.

THE TAKEAWAY

Kansas State looked strong on both sides of the ball, with big performances from graduating seniors and players returning next season, en route to the Wildcats’ first bowl win since the Cactus Bowl in 2017.

LSU had hoped to carry on the positive momentum from an upset win over Texas A&M in the regular-season finale, but transfers and injuries got the best of the Tigers. They’ll look to quickly reload next season under the new regime.

SOUTHERN COMFORT

Kelly joined the television broadcast and was asked about his time in the limelight with viral videos poking fun of his dancing with recruit Walker Howard or his newfound faux Southern accent.

“Listen, whether it was dancing or whether I couldn’t get my accent down with `family,’ listen, I’m from Boston – we don’t have strong accents,” Kelly said.

PRAISE FOR KIRKLIN

“He is the epitome of a selfless kid. He probably didn’t have the career he expected to coming out of high school, but he never complained or wavered or thought of transferring or quit. In fact, he was the opposite.” – Davis on Kirklin.

GRIDIRON GREATS

Before the game, the Texas Bowl introduced the 2021 class of Gridiron Legends, which included Dennis Gentry, Keith Kilgore, Shane Lechler, Mike Singletary, R.C. Slocum, Emmitt Thomas, Jerry Ball, Wade Phillips, Steve Worster, Vince Young and Dick Olin.

UP NEXT

Kansas State will have a new quarterback in 2022, but the offense Will Likely continue to flow through Vaughn. The Wildcats open against South Dakota.

LSU has an important offseason with the transition to Kelly, who has more victories than any active coach in major college football. The Tigers open against Florida State.

No. 2 Michigan beats Purdue 43-22 for Big Ten crown

Trevor Ruszkowski-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS – Donovan Edwards ran for 185 yards and a score, J.J. McCarthy threw three touchdown passes and No. 2 Michigan beat Purdue 43-22 on Saturday night for its second straight Big Ten title and a likely No. 2 playoff seed.

College football’s winningest program has the first 13-win season in school history. Two more victories would give the Wolverines (13-0, No. 2 CFP) their first national championship since 1997.

And with injured star Blake Corum sidelined by a season-ending left knee injury, Edwards stole the show for the second straight week.

After shredding rival Ohio State for 216 yards and two scores last week, Edwards broke open this game with a 60-yard on the first play of the second half to set up one score. He added a 27-yard TD sprint on Michigan’s next series to make it 28-13.

Purdue (8-5) never recovered from Michigan’s quick, seven-play onslaught after it trailed 14-13 at halftime.

But quarterback Aidan O'Connell and receiver Charlie Jones helped the Boilermakers make it interesting for a while.

O’Connell was 32 of 47 with 366 yards and two interceptions after missing some practice time early this week to mourn the death of his oldest brother. Jones, who lost to Michigan in last year’s game while playing for Iowa, had 13 receptions for 162 yards.

It just wasn’t enough.

Michigan showed no signs of a hangover after last week’s rout over the Buckeyes, taking a 7-0 lead on its opening possession with a 25-yard TD pass from J.J. McCarthy to Colston Loveland.

Purdue answered with Devin Mockobee’s 1-yard scoring run to tie the score then took the lead on Mitchell Fineran’s 33-yard field goal.

Michigan answered by taking advantage of an offside call on fourth-and-6 by going for the first down, picking it up and eventually converting the drive into a 7-yard TD pass from McCarthy to Luke Schoonmaker. They never trailed again.

Edwards big run set up Kalel Mullings‘ 1-yard TD plunge before Edwards celebrated his own scoring run.

All Purdue could muster was three more field goals.

McCarthy was 11 of 17 with 161 yards and one interception.

Corum posted a message on Twitter on Saturday morning to say his knee surgery went well.

THE TAKEAWAY

Purdue: The Boilermakers’ magical season ended with a solid showing in the championship game where they played better than most expected. Still, they won the Big Ten’s wild, wild West, both trophy games and should be bound for a warm-weather bowl game.

Michigan: Yes, the Wolverines may have already locked up a top-two seed thanks to losses by Southern Cal and TCU. Michigan now has back-to-back conference crowns for the first time since 2003-04 though the hard part remains – ending its national title drought.

DIALING UP TRICKERY

Brohm played one season in the now defunct XFL and has acknowledged that experience helped him understand how to inject personality and creativity into play calling. It was on full display Saturday.

A surprise end around set up Purdue’s first score, a fake punt helped keep its second scoring drive alive and then Mockobee sprinted 25 yards on a fake flea-flicker in the third quarter.

UP NEXT

Purdue: Will find out its bowl game, destination and opponent Sunday.

Michigan: Waiting to see where its headed and who it will face in the national semifinals.

Klubnik, No. 10 Clemson rout No. 24 UNC 39-10 for ACC title

Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. – Backup quarterback Cade Klubnik completed 20 of 24 passes for 279 yards and a touchdown and ran for another score and No. 10 Clemson reclaimed the Atlantic Coast Conference championship with a 39-10 victory over No. 24 North Carolina on Saturday night.

Cornerback Nate Wiggins broke up two passes in the end zone, blocked a field goal and returned an interception 98 yards for a touchdown to help the Tigers win their seventh ACC title in eight seasons.

Clemson (11-2, No. 9 CFP) won six straight ACC championships from 2015 to 2020 before failing to reach the title game last season. But coach Dabo Swinney‘s Tigers rebounded in a big way, going 9-0 against ACC foes this season to reach the Orange Bowl.

They have Klubnik to thank for that.

With Clemson down 7-0, Swinney benched two-year starter D.J. Uiagalelei after the Tigers failed to pick up a first down on their first two possessions, Swinney turned to Klubnik, a 5-star recruit from Austin, Texas. He responded by leading the Tigers to four straight scores and a 24-10 lead at halftime.

Clemson stretched it to 39-10 heading into the fourth quarter.

It wasn’t the first time Swinney has turned to Klubnik.

He benched Uiagalelei in the second half against Syracuse and Klubnik responded by leading the Tigers to a come-from-behind 27-21 victory. Swinney also turned to Klubnik against Notre Dame, although the results were the opposite with the freshman throwing a Pick 6 in a 35-14 loss.

Swinney has never been shy about replacing veteran QBs with less experienced players. He did it in 2014, sitting Cole Stoudt for Deshaun Watson, and again in 2018 replacing Kelly Bryant with Trevor Lawrence.

ACC player of the year Drake Maye was limited to 268 yards passing and turned the ball over three times for North Carolina (9-4, No. 23 CFP), which was seeking its first ACC championship since 1980 when Lawrence Taylor was wreaking havoc on quarterbacks.

Maye got things started on the right foot for the Tar Heels, capping an 11-play, 78-yard drive with a 3-yard touchdown run for a 7-0 lead on UNC’s first possession.

But the Tar Heels repeatedly sputtered on offense inside the red zone after that, the biggest blow coming when Maye misfired near the goal line and Wiggins – who had struggled in Clemson’s 51-45 win over Wake Forest – returned his pass for a touchdown to give Clemson a 32-10 lead with 5:05 left in the third quarter.

Klubnik provided an immediate spark for Clemson.

He led the Tigers on a nine-play, 71-yard drive, culminating in a 1-yard TD pass to Davis Allen. After Maye’s fumble, Klubnik caught a 19-yard pass from Phil Mafah to set up Mafah’s 4-yard touchdown run – Clemson’s second TD in a span of 40 seconds.

Klubnik then showed off his arm strength with a 68-yard pass to fellow freshman Cole Turner to set up his own 1-yard TD run for a 21-7 lead.

END OF AN ERA

This is the final year the ACC will feature its two division winners playing for a championship. In future years, all ACC teams will be lumped together and the two teams with the best records will advance to the title game.

THE TAKEAWAY

North Carolina: Maye garnered plenty of Heisman Trophy talk during the season, but the Tar Heels offense has stalled resulting in a three-game losing streak. But as long as Maye doesn’t transfer – and there are no indications he will given his family history at North Carolina – the Tar Heels have a good chance to get back to the ACC title game next season.

Clemson: The Tigers have set a high bar by winning national championships, so as much as they will enjoy getting back atop the ACC mountain there will be plenty of talk over whether Swinney cost his team a chance at a spot in the College Football Playoff by not turning to Klubnik at quarterback earlier in the season. It seems Uiagalelei might be a logical transfer portal candidate.

UP NEXT

Clemson will play in the Orange Bowl, while North Carolina awaits a bowl bid.