LSU

Why Brian Kelly brought up Michael Jordan's 'greatest game' before LSU's Harold Perkins had his

Koki Riley
Lafayette Daily Advertiser

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. - Harold Perkins isn't the Michael Jordan of linebackers yet, but he's already had his flu game.

Perkins, LSU football's freshman phenom, was one of a handful of Tigers (8-2, 6-1 SEC) who played with the flu during LSU's gutty 13-10 win over Arkansas (5-5, 2-4) in Fayetteville on Saturday. The win ensured that Alabama's win over Ole Miss wouldn't be for granted, as the loss by the Rebels clinched the SEC West title and a trip to Atlanta for the SEC Championship game on Dec. 3 for LSU.

Perkins threw up just prior to the team meeting in the morning, prompting LSU coach Brian Kelly to bring up Jordan's famous flu game.

"I said 'Hey, you know MJ threw up when he had his greatest game.' And (Perkins) said 'Who's MJ?' " Kelly said. "I was like 'Man, I'm getting so old.' "

Teammate BJ Ojulari later said that Perkins knew who the NBA legend was. But even if he didn't, Perkins sure played like a superstar on Saturday.

Perkins tied the LSU single-game record for sacks with four, forced two fumbles and had eight total tackles. The second forced fumble sealed the victory for LSU, as the turnover gave the Tigers the ball with 1:19 left to play with Arkansas out of timeouts.

"I don't think there are enough superlatives to talk about this young man as a true freshman," Kelly said. "Coming into his own, you can imagine he was awarded the game ball."

Perkins was kept in check in the first quarter but that changed in the second quarter. It's when his first forced fumble took place and led to LSU's first points of the game. He then went on to torture Arkansas starting quarterback Malik Hornsby until the third quarter when Hornsby was replaced by Cade Fortin.

"He’s a really good player, really athletic. Credit to him, credit to LSU. They were doing a lot of nickel stabs, firing him off the edge. I think they did that well with him," Arkansas center Ricky Stromberg said.

Perkins was the tip of the spear but he wasn't the only contributor to LSU's stellar defensive effort.

Greg Penn III led LSU in total tackles with nine and added 2.5 tackles for loss. Sai'Vion Jones recorded a sack and had four total tackles. LSU's secondary allowed just 116 passing yards. The defense clobbered an Arkansas offense in desperate need of starting quarterback KJ Jefferson, who missed the game.

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It wasn't all sunshine and roses for LSU. The Tigers' offense consistently struggled and at times was dreadful.

Jayden Daniels finished only eight completed passes for 86 yards, 30 less than Arkansas' final total. He turned over the ball twice in the first quarter, both on read-option plays.

The Arizona State transfer held onto the ball for too long in the pocket and was consistently fooled by Arkansas defensive coordinator Barry Odom's scheme. The waiting with the ball in his hands led to Daniels getting sacked seven times.

"Two or three times we had wide-open receivers. We run play-action bang routes and we draw the (line)backers up inside and they rally back out and get a hand on it, knocked down some sure touchdown passes," Kelly said.

But even as Daniels and the offense continued to stumble, LSU's defense continued to produce. If it weren't for their efforts, LSU wouldn't be playing for an SEC championship next month.

Playing for a title: Just like Jordan's Chicago Bulls.

"We (didn't) let that distract us," said linebacker Micah Baskerville, who also played sick. "A lot of factors. You know, a couple of us sick, the cold, an 11 a.m. game. We weren't going to let those factors get in the way of getting our dub."

Koki Riley covers LSU sports for The Daily Advertiser and the USA TODAY Sports South Region. Email him at kriley@theadvertiser.com and follow him on Twitter at @KokiRiley.