Skylar Thompson never doubted.
Even when he pulled up with his second major leg injury of the season against Baylor in the penultimate game of the regular season, Thompson said he never questioned that he’d finish the season—and his six-year career—with one more appearance on the field and possibly a bowl victory.
By David Smale, Sports Radio 810 contributor
“I knew my time wasn’t done,” Thompson said, still in an emotional state following Kansas State’s 42-20 demolition of Louisiana State in the TexAct Texas Bowl Tuesday night at NRG Stadium. “I knew I had a pretty severe injury, but it was manageable to get healthy. And my ultimate goal was to be healthy for this game and to go out on my terms. That was my biggest goal, to walk away from this on two feet standing and give everything I’ve got and get a bowl win.”
He did that, and K-State had a victory over an SEC team two seasons removed from a national championship. The Wildcats led 42-7 before LSU scored two late touchdowns, one on a trick play on the last play of the game. But the game was decided early in the second half, and Thompson gets a lot of the credit.
He was 21-of-28 for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Even more impressive, he was 10-of-10 for 120 yards on third down.
“What a dominant performance tonight,” K-State head coach Chris Klieman said after the game. “Skylar was phenomenal. You could see that he’s healthy. The extra week helped us, playing this game on Jan. 4. For him to be on point like he was, he was phenomenal.”
Deuce Vaughn ran for 146 yards and three touchdowns, plus a receiving touchdown, but he wanted to talk about what Thompson has meant to the program and to younger players like him.
“From the two years I’ve been here, on and off the field, the type of man that he is, the influence that he’s put on myself, it’s going to be something that I carry for a very long time,” Vaughn said.
Holding a 21-7 halftime lead, K-State forced an LSU three-and-out in the third quarter before a seven-play, 61-yard drive to take a 28-7 lead. Vaughn scored an 18-yard touchdown run.
Following a Ross Elder interception, K-State went 55 yards in three plays for a 35-7 lead. Thompson hit Vaughn with a 2-yard touchdown pass.
K-State won the coin toss before the game, but broke tradition and elected to receive the ball, instead of deferring.
“I wanted Skylar with the ball in his hands,” Klieman said. “We had plans on throwing the football. We knew they had some new guys on the back end, and we were going to throw the football. We did some creative things on offense. It was fun to watch our guys execute on a high level.”
The Cats took the opening kickoff and marched 75 yards in 11 plays, capped by a Thompson-to-Malik Knowles 25-yard touchdown pass.
After a three-and-out by LSU, the Wildcats marched 71 yards in 18 plays taking 9:16 to take a 14-0 lead. Vaughn scampered in from the 1-yard line for the touchdown. To that point, K-State held a 15:03 to 3:18 advantage in time of possession.
Russ Yeast’s interception set up K-State at the LSU 43. Thompson found Knowles for a 6-yard touchdown pass and the Wildcats led 21-0.
K-State was 6-of-8 on third down in the first half, and the Cats converted both fourth-down tries.
LSU cut the lead to 21-7 just before halftime, but that’s as close as it would get.
Thompson leaves K-State as the winningest quarterback in program history. The memories of Tuesday night’s victory will resonate with Thompson for a long time.
“It honestly hasn’t registered what just happened,” he said. “It was that much fun. I feel like that was our best offensive performance of the season on all cylinders. You could feel the aggressiveness of Coach (Collin) Klien’s play-calling. We’ve been on this journey for so long. We know each other so well that, in the flow of the game, I knew what he was going to call before he called it.
“It was so much fun. It just flew by. But it was a special way to end, for sure.”