LSU vs. Arkansas score, takeaways: Harold Perkins Jr. stars as No. 7 Tigers escape Hogs in defensive battle

No. 7 LSU used a monster effort from freshman linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. to survive and advance 13-10 on the road against Arkansas on Saturday afternoon. Perkins took over the game as he tied the school record for sacks in a game with four, plus recorded two forced fumbles, including the game-winning defensive play on Arkansas quarterback Cade Fortin.  

Perkins' effort was part of an outstanding defensive effort from LSU, which held Arkansas to under 250 total yards and 3 yards per carry. Razorbacks starting quarterback KJ Jefferson missed the game with an injury, and backup Malik Hornsby was ultimately benched after a poor outing in his place. Fortin, the third-string signal caller, led Arkansas' lone touchdown drive, but it wasn't enough in a close victory for LSU.

Arkansas also had a strong day defensively, holding LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels to just 86 yards on 8 of 15 passing. The Hogs sacked Daniels seven times and forced both a fumble and an interception in the first quarter. However, LSU managed to pull off a controversial third-down conversion with a passing play -- that looked identical to its game-winning 2-point conversion against Alabama -- to run down most of the clock in the fourth quarter.

Fortin had one last drive to try and tie the game, throwing a pair of nice passes to start the drive. However, Perkins stepped up again and knocked the ball out of Fortin's hands as he drew it back. The loose ball was recovered by the LSU defense, allowing the Tigers to run out the clock for a fourth straight victory. 

With the win, LSU (8-2, 6-1 SEC) maintains control of the SEC West while eliminating Alabama from backdooring its way into the game. The Tigers can officially clinch a spot in the SEC Championship Game if No. 9 Bama beats No. 11 Ole Miss on Saturday afternoon. Otherwise, LSU just needs to pull off a win over struggling Texas A&M in the final week. 

Let's take a look at three things to know coming out of the win.

1. LSU thankful Perkins is on its side

A five-star prospect from the 2022 recruiting class playing his high school ball in Cypress, Texas, Perkins initially committed to Texas A&M in a public ceremony. But he then backed off his commitment to the Aggies and eventually became the highest-rated prospect in LSU coach Brian Kelly's first recruiting class. So when Kelly told ESPN on the field after Saturday's game that his first reaction to Perkins' performance was that he's glad "he's playing for us," it harkened back to the linebacker's pivotal recruitment, even if that was not the intent. 

Kelly also wanted to give credit to defensive coordinator Matt House for how Perkins is being utilized within the framework of the LSU defense: "Sometimes, you've got a player like that and you don't utilize him, and I think our staff has done a great job of utilizing him to make an impact, like he did today against Arkansas." 

2. LSU's offense needs to execute better

Arkansas was well-prepared to face Daniels and apply pressure that made it difficult for the LSU QB to get into a rhythm. Daniels has become one of the SEC's stars over the last couple of weeks, but LSU's offense has only recently found the kind of production that has allowed the team to win these key conference games against division opponents. 

"We didn't find ourselves today on offense, but sometimes, you gotta grind through," Kelly said after the game. "This is a tough league. The SEC is tough. Arkansas played tough. They made it difficult to get anything going, and hats off to their coach. Sam [Pittman] had his team ready to play. We found a way to win on the road when we didn't have our 'A' game. Hopefully, we learn how we have to prepare offensively in this league."

Now the tape is out on Daniels and LSU's offense. If this staff wants to have a chance at beating No. 1 Georgia -- should the Tigers clinch the SEC West and the Bulldogs clinch the SEC East by the end of the day -- there may need to be some adjustments to help the quarterback and passing game be more successful. 

3. Arkansas has two chances left

The Razorbacks started the year ranked in the preseason top 25 and got soared as high as No. 10 in the AP Top 25 before three straight losses bounced them from the rankings and SEC West contention. But now, after two straight losses by a combined five points, Arkansas faces a razor-thin margin to even make a bowl game at 5-5 with two left to play. The first opportunity will be next weekend in the home finale against No. 11 Ole Miss followed by the regular-season finale rivalry game at Missouri on the Friday after Thanksgiving. At full health, Arkansas was poised to be one of the teams that could shake up the SEC West, but injury issues and now close losses have raised the stakes for these final weeks of the season. 

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4Q: LSU 13, Arkansas 10

Backup quarterback Cade Fortin came into the game and quickly found some grass downfield to get the Razorbacks back into the ball game. Fortin found receiver Matt Landers for passes of 29 and 40 yards, and ran for a 17-yard gain to keep the drive on schedule. Suddenly, this is a competitive game down the stretch in Fayetteville. 

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