Michigan State's Scott gives up redshirt option, plays in Redbox Bowl

Matt Charboneau
The Detroit News
Oregon wide receiver Dillon Mitchell cannot make a catch against Michigan State cornerback Josiah Scott during the first half.

Santa Clara, Calif. — While some wondered whether Josiah Scott should play in the Redbox Bowl on Monday, there was never a doubt in Scott’s mind.

If the Michigan State sophomore cornerback would have decided not to play, he would have had the opportunity to use 2018 as a redshirt season as he played in only four regular-season games after missing the first eight because of a knee injury suffered in preseason camp.

Instead, Scott said there was no way he was missing a chance to play one more time with some of his teammates.

“Just being in that locker for the last time with those seniors and those guys,” Scott said. “It really hits you after the game that, man, a lot of these guys will not be around next year. It really was motivation to go out and play for them.”

It motivated Scott plenty, apparently, as he was named the game’s Outstanding Defensive Player, breaking up four passes while recording three tackles, including one for loss in Oregon’s 7-6 victory at Levi’s Stadium.

“Yeah, just looking back at stats I feel like I played to the best of my ability,” Scott said. “I feel like we played hard, we just didn’t come out with the win.”

As much as Scott wanted a victory, he was also looking forward to squaring off with the Oregon offense, one that entered the game averaging 37.2 points and more than 445 yards a game. It also featured quarterback Justin Herbert, forecast to be one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL Draft before he announced he will be returning for his senior year at Oregon.

If that wasn’t enough, Scott was tasked with covering junior receiver Dillon Mitchell, who entered the game with 69 catches for 1,114 yards and nine touchdowns.

“There was no doubt I was playing in the game,” Scott said. “They’re real good players. Justin is a heck of a quarterback. I’ve never seen a quarterback throw like him before. And Dillon ran really good routes, so I had to be on my ‘A’ game on every single play.”

Like the rest of the Spartans defense, Scott was on his "A" game for nearly the entire game.

However, with Michigan State failing to score a touchdown, it took just one drive of not playing at that level for Oregon to take advantage. Early in the fourth quarter, the Ducks went 77 yards on six plays, taking just 1:40 off the clock to take a 7-6 lead.

The winning score came on a 28-yard pass from Herbert to Mitchell with Scott in coverage.

“We watched a lot of film and I saw he never threw the back-shoulder fade before,” Scott said. “So, I was playing him over the top and I don’t know if he meant to throw back shoulder or not, but it ended up on the back shoulder.”

The result was Oregon’s only touchdown as Michigan State held the Ducks more than 200 yards below their season average only to walk away with a loss.

“I wouldn’t say (it is) frustrating because all the guys in the locker room, they played hard,” Scott said. “So, you can’t downplay the effort. We’re not frustrated at all about the loss because Oregon played good, too.”

Decisions, decisions

While junior cornerback Justin Layne wasn’t with the team after deciding to forgo his final season and enter next spring’s NFL Draft, there are at least a couple more Spartans who have decisions to make.

Junior defensive end Kenny Willekes said last week he would wait until after the season to decide, though now his health factors into that choice after he suffered a broken leg in the third quarter.

As for junior linebacker Joe Bachie, who led Michigan State with eight tackles, no decision has been made.

“I haven’t decided anything,” Bachie said. “It’s something I’ll talk with my family about and the coaches.”

Extra points

Sophomore defensive back Tre Person did not play Monday because of an undisclosed injury. He was on the sidelines but was not in uniform.

… Junior Josh Butler started at cornerback in place of Layne, who opted to enter the NFL Draft and not play in the bowl game.

… Freshman wide receiver Jalen Nailor returned punts while senior running back LJ Scott started for the first time since the Purdue game on Oct. 27.


Twitter: @mattcharboneau