East Lansing — For the past week, there was some question where LJ Scott stood in Michigan State’s running game.
The junior running back — Michigan State’s leading rusher each of the past two seasons — had fumbled twice in the season-opening win over Bowling Green. The first came near the goal line on the first drive of the game and the second was picked up and returned for a touchdown.
It led some to wonder if fifth-year senior Gerald Holmes and junior Madre London might start getting more of the carries. However, in Saturday’s 28-14 victory over Western Michigan, it was Scott once again getting the bulk of the work and ripping off the biggest run of the game that helped the Spartans pull away.
“He's proven over the long haul that he can be a guy that can carry the ball for us 20-25 times,” co-offensive coordinator and running backs coach Dave Warner said. “I think all those tailbacks have had their moments where we feel like we can sort of ride their coat tails a little bit. They've all done that at times throughout their career.
“But LJ, we wanted to try to get him going today, and obviously he had the big play on fourth down. It was blocked really, really well, but it’s just a feeling over the years that LJ's the guy and when it comes down to that we feel like we can hand the ball to him.”
He was the guy on fourth-and-1 and Michigan State at its own 45. Western Michigan had a chance to push the Spartans back on a personal foul call but opted to decline it. Michigan State answered by going for it and Scott was the one who got the call.
“That was the initial play we were going to run and I was actually kind of in Coach D's ear asking for the ball, just because we practiced it all week,” Scott said. “In certain situations, like that, we know what's on the line for us.”
Scott took the ball down to the Western Michigan 11 and three plays later got his first rushing touchdown of the season after catching a 15-yard scoring pass in the first half. He finished with 86 yards on 18 carries.
Holmes and London each carried eight times with Holmes gaining 35 yards and London 28. They’ll continue to split carries, but Scott feels good after a big bounce-back week.
“Really, I just tried to put it behind me,” Scott said of his Week 1 struggles. “The past is the past. I can't really make up or do anything about it. I just knew coming into this game, as far as individually, I knew I was going to have to step up and bounce back for the team. Obviously, those two fumbles cost us. Those points basically all came from me. It's about how I bounce back and try to forget about it.”
Western Michigan honored former Michigan State punter Mike Sadler on Saturday by wearing No. 3 stickers on its helmets.
Sadler, a Grand Rapids native, died last year in a car accident and the Michigan chapter of the National Football Foundation renamed its scholar athlete award after Sadler.
Last year’s recipient was former Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell. That got he and Western Michigan coach Tim Lester looking into Sadler’s history and led to the sticker on the helmet on Saturday.
“Zach knew him and we just learned more and more about him and what he stood for, and he stood for everything I wanted our kids to stand for,” Lester said. “Zach and I talked about what we could do and so we thought honoring him by putting his number on our helmet last February. We kind of announced it at the banquet we were at when I accepted the award for Zach and (Sadler’s mom, Karen) came last night and she came to the hotel to thank the guys for honoring her son who was a great student, great athlete, great person in the community which is what we are striving for.”
Michigan State quarterback Brian Lewerke ran for a career-high 81 yards, the most by a Spartans quarterback since Drew Stanton had 83 against Purdue in Nov. 4, 2006.
His 61-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was the longest touchdown run by a Michigan State quarterback since Charlie Baggett had a 69-yard touchdown run against Purdue on Oct. 27, 1973.
… Michigan State rushed for 296 yards against Western, the most by the Spartans in a single game since they ran for 330 yards at Indiana on Oct. 18, 2014.
… Redshirt freshman defensive end Brandon Randle recorded his first career sack.