LSU is a program in transition as it prepares to face Kansas State in the Texas Bowl on Tuesday night at Houston.
The Tigers (6-6) have an interim head coach, and they’re still not sure who will play quarterback against the Wildcats (7-5) in the final bowl game of this season. After Tuesday, only the CFP National Championship Game remains.
LSU offensive line coach Brad Davis is serving as interim head coach, replacing Ed Orgeron, who was dismissed at the end of the regular season. New Tigers head coach Brian Kelly has been focused on hiring his staff, which will include Davis, as well as recruiting.
Starting quarterback Max Johnson has transferred to Texas A&M, and LSU has yet to reveal the NCAA’s ruling on the team’s appeal for freshman Garrett Nussmeier to not lose his redshirt season if he plays in the bowl game.
“In the midst of adversity or any uncertainty and things that have gone on this season around our program, our guys have stayed together,” Davis said. “They haven’t blinked. They simply go on to work. We won’t be a distracted football team.”
Nussmeier has played in four games in relief of Johnson, whose departure left the freshman as the Tigers’ only scholarship quarterback.
If the appeal is denied, Davis could turn to walk-on Matt O’Dowd and senior wide receiver Jontre Kirklin, who was a dual-threat quarterback in high school. They also have another walk-on freshman in Tavion Faulk.
“If (the appeal) were denied for whatever reason, we have some contingencies in place,” Davis said. “We will be able to move the football and execute our offense.”
LSU also will be without two of its top defensive players, who opted out to focus on the NFL draft — linebacker Damone Clark and defensive lineman Neil Farrell Jr.
The Wildcats have avoided any opt-outs as they try to hand third-year coach Chris Klieman his first bowl victory.
“I know a number of those seniors want that last opportunity to play together,” Klieman said. “This is a close-knit group of guys that cares a lot about each other and enjoys each other’s company.”
Several Kansas State players were just breaking into the program when the Wildcats lost to Navy in the 2019 Liberty Bowl. They didn’t go to a bowl after finishing 4-6 last season.
“There are probably a lot of guys bummed last season that we didn’t get to play in a bowl game,” Klieman said.
Wildcats All-America all-purpose back Deuce Vaughn is looking forward to the stage provided by being the last bowl game of the season.
“Everybody’s going to be watching,” he said.
Like LSU, Kansas State has uncertainty at quarterback and is going through a transition on the coaching staff.
Sixth-year senior quarterback Skylar Thompson came away with a lower-leg injury late in the season, but is “trending in the right direction” to appear in the game, Klieman said. If Thompson is unavailable, sophomore Will Howard likely will start.
Klieman recently dismissed offensive coordinator/wide receivers coach Courtney Messingham and tight ends coach Jason Ray.
Former Wildcats quarterback and current quarterbacks coach Collin Klein will serve as offensive coordinator against LSU.
–Field Level Media