L.J. Scott

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Michigan State RB L.J. Scott hints on Twitter he may turn pro after 2017

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It would be unwise to guess what a college football player plans to do nine to 10 months from now, so overreacting to a single tweet dropped online over the weekend while watching the NFL Combine in Indianapolis may just be catching a player caught up in the fun. Michigan State running back L.J. Scott seemed to leave a hint online to his Twitter followers that he could already be looking forward to his go at the combine “a year from now.”

As a sophomore in 2016, Scott rushed for 994 yards and six touchdowns in a woeful season for the Spartans. Scott is considered one of the top running backs in the Big Ten heading into 2017, along with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley, Minnesota’s Rodney Smith, and Ohio State’s Mike Weber. Like Scott, Barkley and Smith will be juniors this fall and could also be in a position to consider making the leap to the NFL in 2018.

A total of 19 running backs declared early for the 2017 NFL Draft. The only position with more players declaring early for the draft was at wide receiver, with 27.

Michigan State lineman gains 6th year of eligibility

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Michigan State’s bid to defend its Big Ten championship got a lift Tuesday with the announcement Brandon Clemons has been granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA.

A veteran of 32 college games, Clemons is a three-year letter-winner and has already earned his degree in psychology.

With the Spartans offensive line dealing with significant injuries for much of the 2015 season, Clemons was an important part of the rotation and saw time in 13 games.

“Brandon Clemons adds a great deal of experience and stability to the offensive line,” coach Mark Dantonio said in a news release.

The 6-3, 303-pounder figures to vie for a starting role this fall on a unit that lost All-Americans Jack Conklin and Jack Allen at tackle and center, respectively, as well as starting guard Donavon Clark.

“I believe the team is only as good as the seniors,” Dantonio said. “Brandon has been part of a winning culture here the past five years and we’re excited he’s getting the opportunity to maintain that level of excellence for his sixth season. He’s everything you’re looking for in a quality student-athlete. He earned his degree last year and will be a go-to guy in the offensive line room this season for our football team.”

With quarterback Connor Cook and top receiver Aaron Burbridge among those graduating, the Spartans face a major rebuild on offense.

However, a four-headed monster at tailback including Big Ten championship game hero L.J. Scott could give Dantonio’s team a major building block if the line can come together quickly.

Late TD pushes Mich. St. past Iowa, punches ticket to playoff

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Little brother no more.

Back in June, exactly zero media members picked Michigan State to win the Big Ten.  Fast-forward six months, and in one of the most boring exciting game you’ll ever watch, MSU punched a ticket to the most exclusive dance in college football as a late touchdown lifted the Spartans to a 16-14 win over previously unbeaten Iowa.

The game-winning touchdown came after a successful fourth-and-two conversion from the Iowa five-yard line, a man-sized one-yard run by freshman  L.J. Scott with just 27 seconds remaining.  The score capped a drive for the ages, a 22-play, 82-yard march led by a quarterback, Connor Cook who obviously wasn’t close to 100-percent healthy and chewed up over nine minutes of the fourth-quarter clock.

The Spartans converted four third downs on the drive as well as the key fourth-down conversion in the red zone.  The key third-down conversion, though, came five minutes earlier as Cook hit Aaron Burbridge for 16 yards from the 50; 12 plays and three conversions later, and after a last-gap effort by the Hawkeyes, the Spartans were conference champions for the first time since 2013 and the third time under head coach Mark Dantonio.

With the Spartans sitting at No. 5 and the Hawkeyes at No. 4, the Big Ten championship game was essentially a play-in game for the playoffs.  Barring something completely unforeseen, one-loss MSU will join fellow one-lossers Alabama and Oklahoma as well as the only remaining unbeaten, Clemson, in the four-team playoff, the field of which will be announced Sunday afternoon.

More than likely, Iowa will be left one hell of a prize as they will likely head to the Rose Bowl.  Ohio State should also earn a New Year’s Six bid to the Fiesta Bowl.

Sparty wow! Mich. St. stuns Michigan with late TD

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All offseason, No. 7 Michigan State had to bite its tongue and just listen as media far and wide talked incessantly about the addition of Jim Harbaugh to the Michigan football program.  Even into the season, even as the Spartans were undefeated, they had dropped in the polls as the Wolverines were rising, leading some to argue that “Big Brother” was the best the Big Ten had to offer.

After all of that off-field talk, Sparty was about to add to the narrative with an on-field loss in the rivalry game… before one of the most astounding game-ending plays you’ll ever see went down.

Up 23-21 with just 10 seconds left on the clock, all No. 13 Michigan had to do was handle the punt snap and get the kick off cleanly to secure the win.  The punter bobbled the snap, but still not a huge deal; just fall on the ball and force the Spartans to complete a Hail Mary to win from just shy of the 40-yard.

Instead, Blake O’Neill attempted to punt the ball and, well…

Unbelievably, the botched punt attempt was recovered by MSU’s Jalen Watts and returned for 38 yards for the walk-off touchdown.  Even more unbelievably, the Spartans’ first lead of the game came with no time left on the clock, which means they never led in a game for a full 60 minutes — and won.

The loss was arguably the most gut-wrenching for the Wolverines in the rivalry’s long history, and served as its third straight in the series.  Throughout most of the game, though, it appeared Harbaugh was ready to hoist his Wolverines onto the national stage in his first season in Ann Arbor.

Trailing 10-7 at halftime, the Spartans saw the Wolverines push their lead to their biggest of the game, with Sione Houma‘s second short touchdown run of the game pushing the score to 17-7. Over the next 15 minutes or so of play, MSU outscored UM 14-6 as a Connor Cook touchdown pass and L.J. Scott touchdown run — set-up by a beautiful 74-yard catch-and-run by fullback Trevon Pendleton —  cut the lead to 23-21 with 8:56 left in the fourth quarter.

Three three-and-outs, two by U-M, followed Scott’s touchdown run.  The Wolverines’ last punt gave the Spartans the ball at their own 28 with 4:54 remaining.  Six plays later, MSU was knocking at the door of a game-winning field goal attempt at the U-M 36-yard line.  A sack on first down and three subsequent Cook incompletions, however, ended any hopes for a come-from-behind win — or so everyone thought as O’Neill’s gaffe and Watts’ heroics rewrote a script that even Hollywood would pass on as unbelievable.

Wolverines outpunching Spartans in taking first-half lead

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If you’re a fan of defense… and big-haired fullbacks… and tight ends, this Michigan State-Michigan game could very well induce sensory overload.  For those who aren’t enamored by old-school football?  Change the channel, then get off the lawn.

In the first-ever Mark DantonioJim Harbaugh matchup of the rivalry, the latter is outpunching the former as the No. 12 Wolverines have taken a 10-7 lead into the halftime locker room on the No. 7 Spartans.  The first half was also the official end of a suffocating trend for U-M’s defense as they had not allowed a point since Sept. 19, a span that encompassed parts of four games and 13 consecutive quarters, prior to L.J. Scott‘s 11-yard touchdown run midway through the second to knot the game at seven-all.

After a scoreless first, the Wolverines opened the scoring in the second on a two-yard plunge by fullback Sione Houma with a little less than two minutes gone in the quarter. U-M also closed out the scoring in the half when, after Scott’s touchdown, they took the lead on a 38-yard Kenny Allen field goal.

That score was set-up by a 51-yard kick return by Jabril Peppers. Kick coverage has been the bane of the Spartans’ existence this season as they came into the weekend 72nd in the country, giving up nearly 22 yards per return.

Thanks in part to Peppers’ return abilities — he had 89 yards on three kick/punt returns — the Wolverines were actually outgained in the first half 142-95.  The Spartans held a 94-53 edge in passing yards, and a slight 48-42 edge in rushing yards.

Perhaps the biggest blow to the Wolverines came not from the Spartans but from the officiating crew.  In the middle of the second quarter, leading tackler Joe Bolden was flagged for a ridiculous targeting call.  Upon further review, it was deemed ridiculous by almost everyone but the officials, resulting in the linebacker not only being forced to sit out for the remainder of the half but the rest of the game as well.

How targeting was upheld after reviewing video like below is beyond me.