LJ Scott, Brian Lewerke, Joe Bachie, Madre London and Kenny Willekes on Michigan State's victory over Minnesota. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
Minneapolis — The rushing numbers looked pretty good for Michigan State through the first five games of the season, however, the Spartans knew they needed to be better.
They needed to get more production from their running backs, a group that entered Saturday’s game at Minnesota without a 100-yard game, something that seemed hard to believe considering the production juniors LJ Scott and Madre London as well as fifth-year senior Gerald Holmes have had throughout their careers. Scott had gone over 100 yards six times, Holmes twice and London once.
That skid was ended in No. 21 Michigan State’s 30-27 victory over Minnesota as Scott carried 25 times for a career-high 194 yards while scoring on runs of 24 and 6 yards. London was effective, as well, gaining 74 yards on 16 carries and adding a 3-yard touchdown run.
Holmes was dressed but didn’t play after injuring his ankle last week against Michigan, leaving Scott and London to get the job done.
“We rode the hot guy a little bit,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “Really, we were alternating both guys and understanding it was wet, it was cold out there. But we were just going back and forth and they were working at it.”
Scott was hampered by fumbles early this season and had another on Saturday, however, he was running as hard as he has all season and was eager to get back at it after missing last week
“It was great getting back out there with the guys after missing last week,” Scott said. “I have to give the credit to the O-line for creating holes and making things happen out front.”
Michigan State had success running inside the tackles, but they emphasized the toss sweep against Minnesota as Dantonio said the goal was to get on the edge against the Gophers.
Scott took advantage.
“They had a great defense, but they were flowing to the ball and I think I was able to cut back and make some cutbacks on some of those tosses,” Scott said. “The plus side of that is we got the yards that we wanted.”
They did that and now a rushing attack that had been led by quarterback Brian Lewerke in three of the first five games has the line blocking well and the backs carrying the load.
“It was necessary,” Dantonio said. “We are who we are and we’ve always been able to run the ball. Even the last couple of games we’ve run the ball but it was our quarterback that has run the ball. We needed to get our tailback running ball downhill and I think we did that tonight.”
Odds are Holmes will be back for Indiana next week, giving the Spartans even more options as they look to build momentum on the ground.
“We had the mindset before the game that we haven’t had a 100-yard rusher this whole year,” London said. “We wrote that on the board at the hotel before we came over that we needed to have 200 yards rushing. Credit the O-line, they came out and played Michigan State football.
“They blocked their tails off, we hit creases and it was just a matter of time. Now we have to keep it going.”