Despite identical 9-3 records, two teams with different offensive styles will square off in this year’s Holiday Bowl.
Michigan State and Washington State will meet on Dec. 28 in San Diego. Luke Falk, a 6-foot-4, 223-lb. senior quarterback, leads the charge for the Cougars. Junior running back L.J. Scott is the workhorse running back for Michigan State.
The Spartans come into the game on a two-game win streak and seemed to have righted the ship after a 3-9 season a year ago.
The Cougars were blown out in the Apple Cup but started the season 6-0, including a key win against USC.
Players to watch
Luke Falk QB-Senior
Falk is the best player on the Cougars and possibly the best player in the conference. Mike Leach’s air raid attack will try and spread out the Spartans and push the ball down the field. Falk’s top two receivers from the regular season -Tavares Martin Jr. and Isaiah Johnson- Mack- have both left the team, which means Falk will have to find production elsewhere.
Renard Bell WR-Freshman
Renard Bell will be asked to pick up the production left by Martin Jr. and Johnson-Mack. Bell, a freshman, worked the slot during the season and could cause trouble for the Spartans, who on occasion give up chunk yardage in the passing game. Bell’s three catches for 101 yards were the difference in an early season win against the Trojans and in the Holiday Bowl, he could have the same impact.
Josiah Scott CB-Freshman
When Luke Falk struggles, it’s because he tries to force the ball into tight coverage. Falk threw three interceptions against Washington and will have to beware of MSU’s outstanding freshman cornerback. Scott’s 11 starts this year were the most by a true freshman in the Mark Dantonio-era. Dantonio, a former secondary coach, doesn’t usually give playing time to younger corners unless he sees something special and Scott is something special.
L.J. Scott RB-Junior
L.J. Scott had an up-and-down season but out of the running back trio MSU employs, Scott is the most lethal. Scott is the most NFL- ready prospect on the offensive side of the ball and finished the season with 788 rushing yards. As long as Scott, who struggles with fumbles, can keep the ball off the ground he figures to have a strong game against a small Cougars defensive line. Look for MSU offensive coordinator Dave Warner to run the ball early and often in an attempt to keep the ball out of Falk’s hands.
Michigan State 28 Washington State 23
—Troy Jefferson, DN Staff Reports