No matter the circumstances, winning on the road in the SEC is never easy.
That was proven once again in LSU’s narrow 13-10 win over Arkansas. The Tigers never got it going offensively, but were still able to will themselves to a massive victory, reclaiming the Golden Boot.
“I could go through a laundry list of things that I have to do better. But the fact of the matter is, our guys wanted to win,” Brian Kelly said.
On a cold afternoon in Fayetteville, LSU, a team coming off a season-defining, emotional win over Alabama now had to keep that same focus against a 5-4 Arkansas team. Like many other games this season, LSU got off to a slow start offensively, but the defense played well from the start.
LSU’s defense did an impressive job limiting Arkansas quarterback Malik Hornsby, holding him to just 24 passing yards and 37 rushing yards before being pulled out for Cade Fortin in the third quarter. The Tigers also held SEC leading rusher Raheim Sanders to just 46 yards on the game.
Though LSU’s defense was stringent throughout, the offense was never able to create much separation. The Tigers went into halftime up 6-3, and from there were able to hold onto that lead until the end. LSU finally got its first touchdown with 5:25 left in the third quarter, and it felt as if the Tigers would easily pull away from there.
In a cold, sloppy game, LSU had enough to outlast Arkansas, winning 13-10.
However, the quarterback switch seemed to give the Arkansas offense some new life, as the Razorbacks put together a 94-yard drive at the beginning of the fourth quarter to cut the LSU lead back down to just three. This made for an entertaining finish, and one where the defense would be called upon to win the game for LSU.
Led by Harold Perkins, the defense did exactly that.
After trading stops throughout the fourth quarter, Arkansas had one final chance to win or tie the game, getting the ball at its own 23-yard-line with 1:35 left in the game. On just the third play of the drive, Perkins made his fourth sack of the game, knocking the ball loose and giving the LSU offense the ball back where it could then run out the clock.
Perkins was the story of the game for LSU, finishing with eight tackles and four sacks along with two forced fumbles.
“I don't think there's enough superlatives to talk about this young man as a true freshman,” Kelly said of Perkins. “Eight tackles, four sacks, two forced fumbles, all over the field impacting the game, obviously, to the level where we win the game because of his final play.”
The defense as a whole had one of its best games of the season. The unit tallied a collective five sacks and nine tackles for loss while holding Arkansas to just 249 yards of total offense.
Offensively, LSU was able to establish some sort of rhythm running the ball. The Tigers rushed for 198 yards, mainly led by Josh Williams who contributed 122 yards. That total sets a new career high for Williams, who continues to impress for LSU on the ground this season. With the weather conditions having an impact on the game, Williams said he was expecting there to be a focus on running the ball.
“It’s cold, it was snowing earlier this morning, so we knew it was gonna be a nasty, physical running game,” Williams said. “We wanted to get the run a little bit more established early in the game, but it ended up being well.”
With that win and the Ole Miss loss, LSU now officially secures the SEC West in year one under Kelly. The Tigers improved to 8-2 on the year, a win tally many thought was this team’s ceiling by the end of the season.
LSU now has a break from SEC play as the Tigers return home next weekend to face UAB for senior night. The game is set for Saturday, Nov. 19 at 8 p.m. and will be streaming live on ESPN2.