Michigan State's LJ Scott and Brian Allen talk about the running game, and Connor Heyward talks about returning kicks and punts. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — LJ Scott said there was a different feeling last Saturday night in Minneapolis.
Michigan State was warming up getting ready to take on Minnesota at TCF Bank Stadium, and the junior running back could hardly contain himself.
“There was definitely a lot of energy and I was very excited during pregame,” Scott said. “I was pushing all the coaches around just knowing the game I love … I was able to come out and play with the guys on this team.
“Going into the game I felt like that. I was just excited, man. Whenever I’m at that level in pregame I just feel like it will be a good night or a good day.”
That feeling proved to be right on as Scott, who didn’t play the previous week at Michigan because of an injury, exploded for a career-high 194 yards while adding a pair of touchdowns.
It was part of No. 18 Michigan State’s most impressive rushing attack of the season as fellow junior Madre London added 74 yards and a touchdown with fifth-year senior Gerald Holmes sitting with an injury.
“Obviously, going into the week the big emphasis was on running the ball,” Scott said, “because we haven’t had as much success the last couple of weeks. We knew we were going to be able to execute and now we just have to keep it rolling.”
Keeping it rolling from the tailbacks will be the key. Up until the game at Minnesota, quarterback Brian Lewerke had been Michigan State’s most effective rusher. And that was something Scott said he and his fellow backs knew couldn’t continue.
As much as it helps the offense to have a dual-threat quarterback, Michigan State is built on the power running game and, with the depth in the backfield, it seemed to only be a matter of time before it got rolling.
“I think it was a point of emphasis for us certainly to try to get our tailbacks running,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I thought Madre had a good game, as well. I think we have talent at that position. We got (Scott) him going. I think we did a nice job with some of the things we did conceptually, got him into certain areas to the second level where he could use his skill set, both those guys could use their skill sets.
“When things start to happen, I think it just becomes that there's enthusiasm with it, there's repetition, things just naturally start to occur. I guess we got on a run. No pun intended.”
They got on a run, indeed, as did Scott.
The game was seventh 100-yard game of his career and he became the 18th player in program history to reach the 2,000-yard mark in his career, standing now at 2,101 yards. He also is now Michigan State’s lead rusher this season with 408 yards on 83 carries.
Scott admitted getting a big game came with a sense of relief, but he’s been pushing himself each week to produce like that, even as he’s had trouble hanging on to the ball. He fumbled the ball for the fourth time in the second half against the Gophers, which led to a Minnesota touchdown.
“There’s always pressure. I’m always gonna put pressure on myself,” Scott said. “I always know what people expect out of me. So, that’s just life. Either you can deal with the pressure or you can’t and me putting pressure on myself I think makes it better for me.
And the fumble?
“The guy shot through and was able to get a hand on the ball,” Scott said. “It’s my job to keep the ball in my hands so that is not acceptable, as well. Like I said, I just got to keep pushing and I can’t do anything about the past.”
That means he can’t go back and add 6 yards to his total either, 6 yards that would have given him 200.
He would have gotten to that number if his 24-yard run to the Minnesota 2 in the fourth quarter would have been upheld.
But guard Tyler Higby was called for holding on the play, a call that replay showed was a bit sketchy.
Not that Scott noticed.
“I did not see (the replay), but I definitely heard about it,” Scott said laughing.
So, the 200-yard barrier will have to wait, but if Scott has his way, it won’t be long. He’s feeling confident and he believes the young offensive line is getting better each week.
And with Indiana coming to town Saturday for a 3:30 kickoff — one he is happy to have after two straight night games — Scott said the Spartans are right where they belong.
“It’s always exciting to be back in the woodshed,” Scott said smiling.