LJ Scott's fumbling issues pop up again against Notre Dame
Before the Spartans would come away with a 35-10 season-opening victory over Bowling Green, fumbles would plague junior running back LJ Scott.
The Ohio native would end the game with two lost fumbles, one of which came at the goal line on MSU's first offensive drive of the season.
Dantonio said he wasn’t worried. Lewerke said it was just a fluke. Both seemed as if they weren’t concerned. Well, they should have been.
On Saturday, the Spartans faced off against Notre Dame before a national audience.
Down 21-7, Scott took a handoff from Lewerke, ran through the middle of the field and dashed into the end zone for a touchdown. Fans in attendance at Spartan Stadium rejoiced, hopeful of a comeback.
In the midst of the cheers and high-fives in the stadium, the fans were brought to disappointment as it was revealed that Scott fumbled at the goal line and the Irish recovered in the end zone.
The turnover marked Scott’s third lost fumble of the season and the third turnover in the game for the Spartans, with Lewerke throwing an interception that was returned for a touchdown in the first quarter and then later on, lost a fumble.
“I think we got to change our approach, maybe, because what we’re doing is not working,” co-offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. “We’re doing what we’ve been doing for years and years around here and been very good with protecting the football, but it’s not taking place right now.
“We’ll just evaluate it, look at it and see if there’s new ways to go about emphasizing it. We could not have emphasized it any more these last two weeks, but obviously, we didn’t get it done.”
Despite Scott’s fumbles, Lewerke remains confident in Scott.
“I told him, ‘I had two (turnovers) myself, so don’t worry about it at all.’ Obviously, he’s a guy that’s led us the past three years — the past two years, I guess — and he was really big for us like (in) the playoff year (in 2015) and even last year,” Lewerke said. “I have all the confidence in the world in him.”
While Lewerke continued to dismiss Scott’s fumbles as a legitimate concern, senior linebacker Chris Frey was discouraged by the third-year player’s constant turnovers.
“It’s tough for him,” Frey said. “He’s had a tough year so far holding onto the ball. Honestly, I walked over to him (Saturday) and kind of ripped into him a little bit. I told him, ‘We’ve talked about this multiple times. You got to hold onto the ball.’"
“And the (Irish defender) made a good play on the ball. LJ had time to pick that ball up and still score, and he didn’t do that. LJ is another guy that’s had a ton of snaps under his belt, and we hold him to a higher standard. We expect more out of him, and we’re not going to let him get away with this easy.”
The Irish, who defeated MSU 38-18, finished the game with 21 points off of turnovers. Without the pick-six and the two fumbles, the Spartans could have kept the game close and even might have came away with the victory.
“Basically, you look at the football game and you talk about turnovers and you talk about it and talk about it and talk about it,” Dantonio said. “When they happen, bad things come about it or good things, depending on what side of the fence you’re on. So, obviously, those turnovers — being minus-3 (in turnover differential) in the first half — created a big 14-point swing, number one, and we didn’t get the touchdown going in to make it 21-14, and then they drove down the field.”
To combat instances like Scott’s fumbling mishaps to occur, Dantonio said the team conducts ball security drills every day at practice.
“He's trying to make a play and the ball comes out,” he said. “He's got to be more careful with the football. Nobody feels worse than him. ... I'm not going to go over and yell at a guy when he's trying to make a play. These guys are trying to make plays, so I'm part of that, and I'm not going to be finger-pointing and saying, `You do this. You did that.' We talk ball security and work ball security every single day, seven minutes a day in drills.”
Despite the fumbles by Scott, Dantonio still believes in the team’s trio of running backs.
“All three of those guys are good backs. All three of those guys are going to do certain things,” Dantonio said. “Again, when you look back at the history of our backs and what they have done here, there's some value in looking at the history. We'll look at that again and see how they play next game and make some evaluations.”