By RON HIGGINS, Journal Sports
BATON ROUGE – The mantra for head coaches in all sports on any level should be “You never know until you know.”
Translated: Unexpected things occur, such as changing plans or tweaking personnel which results in positive discoveries.
“I haven’t had many teams that just add water and just go,” said LSU’s Brian Kelly after three games of his 33rd season as a college head football coach. “They all require a little bit of changing the formula as the season goes along to get the right mix. We were able to do that (last season). I think we’re finding the formula for this team.”
For instance, the 12th-ranked Tigers (2-1 overall, 1-0 SEC West), who host Arkansas (2-1, 0-0 SEC West) at 6 p.m. Saturday, have discovered a few things in victories the past two weekends over Grambling and Mississippi State after losing the season-opener to Florida State.
The first adjustment was obvious. Kill the Harold Perkins Jr. inside linebacker experiment and move him back outside into open spaces where he can give offensive coordinators nightmares.
Perkins was in full whirling dervish mode in last Saturday’s 41-14 victory at Mississippi State. The final stats showed he had 4 tackles (2 solo) with two tackles for loss, a quarterback sack and a pass breakup.
On consecutive plays in the second quarter, he broke up a first-down Will Rogers pass in the corner of the end zone and then sacked him for a 3-yard loss on second down.
“Early on (vs. FSU), he was playing inside, he was thinking a lot, he was slowing down,” Kelly said.
“He’s got to play with energy. He’s got to play with emotion. That’s how he plays the game the best. He brought that competitive edge. That’s going to put him in a position to get to the quarterback and set the edge and run people down.”
There was also the one-game NCAA suspension meted out to LSU starting defensive tackle Maason Smith for the FSU opener. It forced Kelly to start sophomore Jacobian Guillory with Virginia senior tackle Jordan Jefferson as the backup. Both performed admirably.
So, when the Tigers were missing three injured starters against Mississippi State – inside linebacker Omar Speights, outside “jack” linebacker Ovie Oghoufo and safety Greg Brooks – Kelly didn’t hesitate to start three players in their first year in LSU’s program.
True freshman Whit Weeks, who replaced Speights, had a team-high 8 tackles and a QB hurry. Junior Oregon transfer Bradyn Swinson, filling in for Oghoufo, had 3 tackles, a pass breakup and a QB hurry. In Brooks’ absence, Marshall University graduate student safety Andre Sam had 4 tackles and a pass breakup. True freshman safety Ryan Yaites came off the bench and had 2 tackles.
“What it shows more than anything else,” Kelly said, “and Coach (defensive coordinator Matt) House and I were talking about it, is that we have more than 11 and we need to play them.
“You’ll see now that we can play a lot more at the linebacker position and at the safety position.”
KNOW YOUR ENEMY
Arkansas (2-1 overall, 0-0 SEC West) at No. 12 LSU (2-1, 1-0 SEC West), Tiger Stadium, Saturday, 6 p.m. (ESPN)
Last game for the Razorbacks: Lost 38-31 to BYU last Saturday in Fayetteville. Arkansas outgained the Cougars 424-281, had 21 first downs to BYU’s 17 and possessed the ball for 10 more minutes than BYU, but the Cougars were a perfect 4 for 4 in red zone scoring and scored 38 points on 57 plays. BYU’s front recorded four sacks, four QB hits, and two forced fumbles. The killer for the Hogs was being whistled for 14 penalties for 125 yards.
Last meeting: In a battle of defenses, LSU won 13-10 last November in Fayetteville. LSU freshman linebacker Harold Perkins Jr. finished with two forced fumbles, four sacks and eight tackles. Arkansas, playing without injured starting QB KJ Jefferson, gained just 249 yards.
Arkansas head coach: Sam Pittman is 21-18 overall and in four seasons at Arkansas.
THIS AND THAT:
Early betting line: LSU by 17
Number of Louisiana natives on Arkansas roster: 1
Number of Arkansas natives on LSU roster: 0
Number of transfers on Arkansas roster from 4-year schools: 26 players from 22 schools including 14 players from 9 Power 5 Conference schools
ARKANSAS PLAYERS TO WATCH
QB K.J. Jefferson 55 of 71 for 629 passing yards, 6 touchdowns, 1 interception, 80 rushing yards and 1 TDs on 31 carries, RB AJ Green 190 rushing yards and 2 TDs on 28 carries, WR Andrew Armstrong (18 catches for 197 yards, 3 TDs), LB Jaheim Thomas 29 tackles, 3½ TFL, 1½ sacks, DB Jayden Johnson 15 tackles, 1 interception, 1 forced fumble, PK Cam Little 1 of 2 FG, 16 of 16 extra points, P Max Fletcher 14 for 44.1 ypp, 7 FC, 4 inside the 20, 5 +50 yards, KO Cam Little 16 for 63.9 ypk, 12 touchbacks, PR Isaiah Sategna 6 for 154 yards, 1 TD, KR Isaiah Sategna 6 for 112 yards.
PIG POP QUIZ
What Arkansas star finished second twice in the Heisman Trophy voting?
A. “Touchdown” Tom Murphy
B. “Rapid” Robert Holt
C. “Walloping” Wally Hall
D. Darren McFadden
Arkansas’ 2002 last-second win over LSU in Little Rock is known as:
A. Houston’s Nutty Buddy Classic
B. The Miracle on Markham
C. Little Rock Luck
D. Oinker Go Deep
What record does the LSU-Arkansas 1947 Cotton Bowl hold?
A. Most snow ever in Cotton Bowl Stadium
B. Most fumbles in a Cotton Bowl game
C. Most coffee sold during a Cotton Bowl game
D. The only scoreless tie in the history of all bowls
- C, 2. B, 3. D.
Contact Ron at email@example.com