No excuses: Tigers soldier on despite turbulent season

Published 5:44 am Tuesday, January 4, 2022

HOUSTON — Fired coaches. Lame duck coach. Interim coach. New coach waiting in the wings. One injury after another. Opt-outs and the never-ending lure of the transfer portal and an assortment of unexplained absences.

Yes, LSU has just about seen and heard it all during this wacky up-and-down football schedule.

But there’s one thing you won’t see or hear when the turbulent season finally comes to a close tonight against Kansas State in the TaxAct Texas Bowl.

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Namely …

“There will be no excuses,” interim head coach Brad Davis said.

There would be plenty to choose for an LSU team (6-6), which had to win its last two games just to get bowl eligible but will finish the season with just over 40 available scholarship players against the Wildcats.

It will be LSU’s 53rd bowl appearance but, so as anyone can remember, the first time the Tigers had to send the JV.

In other words, for Davis’ first game as a head coach he’ll play the hand he’s been dealt, which could mean 10 or more players starting their first college game, including whoever plays quarterback.

But the ever-optimistic Davis wasn’t done.

“We’re going to win this  game,” he said.

Whatever happens, Davis will then hand over the reins to new LSU head coach Brian Kelly, who was hired away from Notre Dame shortly after previously fired coach Ed Orgeron finished his tenure with an upset win over Texas A&M to earn the bowl trip.

Kelly will be at the game and Davis has consulted with him during the 15 practices the Tigers were allowed leading up to this game.

But Kelly will be an observer. Tonight’s tall task will be Davis’ to win or lose.

“We’ve been preparing our butts off,” Davis said. “Our kids are hungry. When opportunities come up, whatever the reason may be, it’s a next-man-up mentality. There’s a bunch of kids that are eager and hungry  to go out there and perform. You will not hear one excuse from me about the roster.”

“Right now we have a really talented Kansas State team that wants to beat us,” he said.

Thus far Davis, normally the offensive line coach, is the only previous assistant retained for the new regime, although a handful have remained to coach the bowl game.

Kansas State head coach Chris Klieman, who made his coaching bones leading North Dakota State to four FCS national championships in five years, has replaced his offensive coordinator since the regular season ended.

But the Wildcats (7-5) appear to be pretty much at full strength after losing their final two games of the season while missing quarterback Skylar Thompson to injury.

Thompson is back, along with star running back Deuce Vaughn, a 5-foot-6 jitterbug of a running back.

“The offense works through him,” said LSU linebacker Mike Jones, one of the Tigers’ first-time starters, said of Vaughn. “He’s a quick, shifty guy. They get him the ball in a lot of ways. We’ve just got to find a way to shut him down.”

The Tigers will do their best with a depleted roster and never considered trying to get out of the game.

“What this has been more than anything else has been a bridge to get through this transition,” Davis said.

When it’s over?

“I’ll gladly hand the keys over to Coach Kelly,” Davis siad. “I think he’s got an unbelievable plan to lead this team to a championship and I’m fortunate to be a part of it.”