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Dominant Defensive Effort Lifts LSU Over Mississippi State

Freshman linebacker Harold Perkins shows out, Jay Ward has career night
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Defensive coordinator Matt House dialed up an exceptional game plan for Saturday night’s contest against Mississippi State. The Tigers saw their heavy-hitters rise to the occasion and shut down the Bulldogs’ ‘air raid’ offense from start to finish.

It’s important to note that this offense LSU faced is one of the most potent in the entire SEC, proving this squad can hang with the best of them when putting it all together.

“The most important thing is you can’t give them a pre-snap look that is comfortable,” Kelly said. “I think our players did an incredible job following through with the game plan that gave them a pre-snap look and changed post snap. That’s the players being disciplined, mixing up calls. They did a great job of executing the game plan.”

Though it was a team effort on that side of the ball, LSU saw veteran defensive back Jay Ward and freshman linebacker Harold Perkins take over in this one.

READ MORE: LSU Defeats Mississippi State 31-16 in Tale of Two Halves 

Ward was seemingly all over the field on every snap, getting sideline-to-sideline and clamping up Mississippi State’s wide receivers on his way to a career night. The senior finished with 11 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss and an interception, but his dominance goes beyond the stat sheet.

Yes, he did it all Saturday night, but the seasoned veteran was seen communicating with his teammates all night, even when the offense couldn’t get any points on the board early. It’s his leadership ability that makes him such a gifted player for this program.

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“[Jay Ward] was outstanding, he was all over the place,” Kelly said after the game. “The position where he can be involved in the physicality, that’s the difference with where he is now.”

For Perkins, the former 5-star prospect was unleashed for the breakout game this program has been anticipating. The freshman linebacker signed with LSU in February and is already putting it together as a youngster.

READ MORE: Three Observations From LSU's Victory Over Mississippi State 

“Playing him low and giving him the opportunity to run. He was outstanding, all over the place,” Kelly said. “The position itself where he can be involved in the physicality instead of being a deep player in the middle of the field. That’s really the difference in where he is now.

Tallying five tackles and 1.5 sacks Saturday night, it’s safe to say Perkins has arrived and can take over this defense.

READ MORE: Three Things We Hope to Learn Against Mississippi State 

"We needed to let him loose because we know he's really good at getting in the backfield and rushing the quarterback,” senior defensive end Ali Gaye said Saturday night. “I'm really proud of him."

Ward and Perkins were just two pieces that made this defensive unit thrive Saturday night. With Ward putting it all together and Perkins showing LSU faithful he’s arrived, the Tigers have all the makings to be a top defense in the SEC.