Michigan State Football: Youth shine in sloppy win


The Michigan State football program has been known for its ability to develop talent during players’ four and five year careers in Mark Dantonio’s system.

More from Spartans Football

After two top-five finishes and significant bowl victories at the Rose and Cotton Bowls, the allure of Michigan State has attracted top talent to the program. During the 37-24 victory over Western Michigan on Friday, several young players established themselves as potential major contributors to the upcoming season.

During a game where Connor Cook struggled, the two young running backs demonstrated that they could be counted on to help keep the offense moving.

In August, Coach Dantonio named redshirt freshman Madre London the starting running back heading into the 2015 season, however many diehard Spartan fans expected L.J. Scott would get his opportunities and he certainly wasted no time showing his skills.

Scott finished the night with 77 yards on 13 carries (a healthy 5.9 ypc), but his unique combination of speed and strength stood out the most. On several carries, Scott was able to make a Western Michigan defender miss or broke a few tackles to keep the play alive.

Related: MSU Football: 5 most intriguing freshmen

Most telling, it was L.J. Scott, not Madre London, who received many of the snaps while the offense tried to run out the clock.

Sep 4, 2015; Kalamazoo, MI, USA; Michigan State Spartans running back Lj Scott (3) runs over Western Michigan Broncos cornerback Ronald Zamort (7) during the 2nd half of a game at Waldo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

In his defense, London also had a great debut in a Spartan uniform. London finished the night with 59 yards on 13 carries, including two touchdown runs — he also had a long touchdown run called back thanks to an illegal formation penalty. However, he did not show the same elusiveness and explosiveness that Scott exhibited.

Going forward, look for Scott and London to receive a majority of the carries at running back, with Gerald Holmes and possibly Delton Williams sporadically getting reps.

On the defensive side of the ball, two of the most coveted Spartan recruits in recent years exhibited the talent that many fans expected to see, while a highly regarded redshirt freshman stepped up in his first start.

Malik McDowell, who made national headlines during his recruitment, showed why he was a five-star recruit coming out of high school. He terrorized Western Michigan quarterback Zach Terrell and helped the Spartan defense hold the Broncos’ rushing attack to a meager 18 yards on 23 carries.

On one sequence, McDowell blew up a Broncos’ double team — in which he flattened the left guard — and sacked Terrell. More impressively, McDowell showed his motor on several plays in which he was seen running sideline to sideline while pursuing running backs and wide receivers on screen passes.

In the secondary, Montae Nicholson and Vayante Copeland showed Spartan fans why their teammates had been gushing over their play during spring and fall camp.

Live Feed

Maryland vs. Michigan State Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 4
Maryland vs. Michigan State Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 4 /


  • Biggest winners and losers from College Football Week 3Saturday Blitz
  • What channel is Washington playing on today, Sept. 16?FanSided
  • College Football Predictions: Picks for Top games of Week 3Saturday Blitz
  • Washington vs. Michigan State Prediction, Odds, Trends and Key Players for College Football Week 3Betsided
  • Big Ten football: 2023 Week 2 power rankingsSaturday Blitz
  • Although Nicholson played last year, last night was a coming out party for the uber athletic safety. He recorded an interception and showcased his speed by chasing down opposing players and making tackles in space — something the secondary needs to work on before next week.

    Copeland, who drew comparisons to former Spartan and first round pick Darqueze Dennard, showed flashes reminiscent of the founder of the “No Fly Zone” last night. With the Broncos rallying late, Copeland made a nice play in the end zone breaking up a pass and eventually recorded his first career interception, also in the end zone. However, Nicholson and Copeland’s strong performances were overshadowed by the secondary allowing 365 yards (!) as a unit.

    At the end of the night, Michigan State left Kalamazoo with a victory over in-state for Western Michigan. Even though there were several issues that need to be addressed, this group of underclassmen provided Spartan fans with a glimpse of what to expect in the years to come.

    More from Spartan Avenue