Michigan State running back LJ Scott talks about returning from his ankle injury. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — It wasn’t easy for LJ Scott to just stand around.
But for the better part of a month, when Michigan State took the field, that’s what Scott was doing, relegated to the bench as he nursed a bad ankle that he hurt in the second game of the season at Arizona State.
As the senior running back watched, the Spartans offense was sputtering, specifically the running attack that was having trouble finding any traction.
“Definitely a lot of frustration watching these guys play and being bored on the sidelines,” Scott said. “Not fun, but (I was) keeping them up and keeping a positive mindset. That is fun, so as long as I’m keeping everyone up then I think everyone will be good.
“But watching those guys play and me not play was probably the hardest thing, it was frustrating. Keeping that positive mindset is a big thing.”
Scott made his return last week against Michigan, ending a month-long battle that pitted the frustration of not competing against the common sense of not pushing an injury that could have gotten worse if Scott returned too soon.
Bob Wojnowski, Angelique S. Chengelis and Matt Charboneau preview the MSU-Purdue game. The Detroit News
The problem from the outside — where injury details are scarce — is that it seemed Scott was on the verge of getting back on the field. After getting hurt during the first series of the second half at Arizona State, Scott was listed No. 1 on the depth chart and dressed for each of the next three games.
Each time, however, Scott watched from the sidelines. When Michigan State played at Penn State, Scott didn’t make the trip, fueling more speculation about his status. But, it turns out it was just the final cautious step in his path back to playing.
“I thought I was ready to go and just wasn't,” Scott said of the week-by-week monitoring of his status. “I was just playing it smart, really. I just didn't want to go out there and continue to hurt it even more. I'm just glad to be back.”
Four games, though, was enough time to get back. By last Monday, Scott says he knew he was going to play against Michigan, and took part in his first full week of practice since he suffered the injury.
“First of all, he hasn't played football in six weeks, so it's been a while, so he did get in there, and I thought he played pretty well,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He made some cuts on a couple occasions where there were tight holes, and he's got to get back to playing the way he's capable of playing and who he is because he was a very good player for us. That takes time.”
The numbers don’t jump off the page — Scott ran for 25 yards on 10 carries and caught one pass for 15 yards — but getting Scott back adds a playmaker the Spartans are desperate for, as those around him have suffered their share of injuries. Wide receiver Cody White has been out since Week 4, and Felton Davis just ruptured his Achilles. Quarterback Brian Lewerke is battling a bad shoulder and wide receivers Darrell Stewart Jr. and Jalen Nailor have been banged up.
It means Scott could be coming back at just the right time as Michigan State (4-3, 2-2 Big Ten) hosts Purdue (4-3, 3-1) on Saturday.
“Just seeing those guys like that and some of our best players go down tells me that I've just got to play a bigger role in this offense,” Scott said. “As much as I try and just keep these guys up, keep these guys going, and let them know that the job still can be done."
Dantonio believes the more Scott plays, the better he’ll be, the more like the old LJ Scott he’ll be. But it’s been a slow process.
“You don't have the advantage of having an August camp and three scrimmages and things like that to get yourself ready,” Dantonio said. “You're sort of trying to get ready on a Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and then you're held out, and I think your ability to sustain physically takes a hit a little bit, so you've got to get back into shape. I think he'll be doing that, and I think we'll see progress.”
Scott agrees, and says he’s ready to breathe some life into Michigan State’s offense as the Spartans try and rebound from losing two of the last three and close the season on a high note.
“I'm definitely 100 percent,” Scott said. “(I) feel good and ready to go and move forward.”