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Preview: Football Set to Host Arkansas in Annual Battle for the Boot

by Harrison Valentine | Digital Media Graduate Assistant
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Preview: Football Set to Host Arkansas in Annual Battle for the Boot

After a dominant showing in the SEC opener, LSU returns to Tiger Stadium on Saturday night to host Arkansas for the annual Battle for the Boot.

Kickoff is set for 6:08 p.m. CT on ESPN and the LSU Sports Radio Network. Chris Fowler, Kirk Herbstreit and Holly Rowe will be on the broadcast call.

The Tigers started fast against Mississippi State and left no doubt as quarterback Jayden Daniels and wide receiver Malik Nabers put on an offensive clinic, en route to 530 yards of total offense in LSU’s 41-14 win over Mississippi State.

Daniels completed his first 13 passes of the game, finishing 30-of-34 for 361 yards with four total touchdowns, two through the air and two with his feet. Nabers, who currently leads the league in receiving yards (393) and ranks No. 2 in receptions (24), was targeted 13 times and reeled in 13 catches for 239 yards and two touchdowns.

The two earned SEC-Co Offensive Player of the Week honors, which the league office announced on Monday. Teammates have been named Co-SEC Offensive Players of the Week only five times since 1986, and the Tigers have done it three times.

“He made some great throws under duress,” said head coach Brian Kelly on Monday. “Those are NFL throws. Not backing down, staying in the pocket, knowing that he was going to get hit, and still delivering the ball with great accuracy.”

Daniels earned a 98.9 passing grade from Pro Football Focus on throws of 20+ yards, which ranked first nationally among P5 QBs in Week 3. On those throws of 20+ yards, he earned a perfect NFL rating of 158.3.

Defensively, LSU made a statement in their own right, posting its best outing of the year, holding Mississippi State to 201 yards (94 rushing, 107 passing) and 10 first downs. With that performance, the Tigers are allowing 23.0 points and 338.3 total yards per game (130.7 rushing, 207.7 passing).

True freshman linebacker Whit Weeks looked the part in his first career start alongside junior Greg Penn III. Weeks made the first two tackles of the game for the Tigers and finished with a team-leading eight, along with a QB hurry. Sophomore Harold Perkins did a little bit of everything, finishing with four tackles, one sack, and one pass breakup.

“Elite speed at the position,” Kelly said of Weeks. “He can cover the field, run mistakes down. When he sees an open gap, he’s going to take it.”

On the opposing sideline, Arkansas is led by senior quarterback K.J. Jefferson, who has thrown for 629 yards and six touchdowns through three weeks of play. Jefferson missed last year’s contest with the Tigers due to injury.

AJ Green has led the Razorback rushing attack with 28 carries for 190 yards and two scores, averaging 6.8 yards per touch.

Jaheim Thomas leads the team in tackles by a sizable margin, having tallied 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks to start the season.

No matter where these teams are ranked or positioned, this matchup always seems to deliver a battle. Last season was no different, as the Tigers were able to leave Fayetteville with a 13-10 victory behind Perkins’ eight tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

“It’s a hard-fought, physical game each and every year,” Kelly said. “It’s a rivalry, trophy game. I know our guys understand who they’re playing and the tough games that we’ve had with them.”

The opponent changes, but the mindset stays the same. Starting fast, building momentum and leaving no doubt will once again be the focus heading into another SEC battle. Playing with an edge is important too, and the way the team approached last week from a mental standpoint, Kelly says, translated on the field in a positive way. 

“They want to be a tough, hard-nosed, physical football team,” Kelly said. “We’re letting them create that demeanor. I want gentlemen off the field, but I want tough guys on the field.”