EAST LANSING – Michigan State tailback LJ Scott earned a spot in program lore with a game-winning one-yard touchdown run against Iowa in the 2015 Big Ten Championship Game.
After practice on Tuesday, Scott took some questions about the 22nd play of that historic nine-minute drive, which sent the Spartans to the College Football Playoff during his freshman season. But he answered more questions about the costly goal-line fumble, which killed any chance for Michigan State to mount a come from behind victory at home against Notre Dame last weekend.
“It was an important part of the game, and killed the momentum for sure,” said Scott, who fumbled on the goal line on what should have been a momentum score, which pulled Michigan State within a touchdown of Notre Dame in the second quarter of a 38-18 loss. “It doesn’t feel too good, especially putting my team in a situation like that when we are going (into the end zone)."
Scott downplays any suggestion he is prone to fumbling.
“It’s definitely not an issue for me,” Scott said. “The guy just made a great play. He was able to get his hand on the ball and it came out.”
Scott admits he could have done more to prevent the costly goal-line fumble.
“Holding the ball tighter, wrist above the elbow,” he said.
Scott harbors no resentment toward fellow Ohioan and team captain Chris Frey, who rebuked him on the sideline after the costly fumble.
“I was pissed at the time,” Scott said. “When he told me, I was sitting on the sideline with kind of a mad face. I was pissed at myself. Then he came over and said, ‘you’re too good to be fumbling the ball, you need to hold onto the ball. Things happen, but make sure you keep it high and tight and go get them the next play.”
Although difficult for Scott to hear, Frey's words were warranted.
“As a captain, I would expect that, I would expect anything,” Scott said. “Chris is a great guy. I love Chris, he is definitely one of my brothers, and he keeps it real for sure.”
It would be counterproductive for Scott to fixate on past fumbles, but it would be unwise to forget about them altogether according to senior running back Gerald Holmes.
“Escape it out of your head,” Holmes said, “but you want to soak that in a little bit because it can give you an edge. I kind of just encourage him and coach him up a little bit, seeing how he was carrying it.”
Scott has bounced back from past turnovers, and plans to do so again.
“My freshman year, I fumbled a few times during camp,” Scott said. “Come season, I didn’t really fumble anymore.”
Coming off last weekend’s loss to Notre Dame, Scott and his teammates are hopeful that they can bounce back the way Michigan State did in 2013.
“We know how it feels to lose,” Scott said. “In 2013, they had a loss, and it was to Notre Dame. It was about how they bounced back, and how we’re going to bounce back.”
A win at Iowa in the Big Ten opener was a catalyst for the success Michigan State enjoyed during a 13-1 season in 2013, which included a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl victory. The Spartans could set the tone for another expected turnaround with a win against Iowa at Spartan Stadium on Saturday.
“We’re still excited, and we can still achieve our goals,” Scott said. “We’re still practicing hard to achieve our goals.”
Running the football against this group of Hawkeyes will not be easy.
“They are a good team,” Scott said. “Their linebackers are good and this is definitely a game where we’ll have to be tuned in and focused. Turnovers cannot happen.”