SANTA CLARA, Calif. — It only took the opening kickoff for Josiah Scott to make an impact in his fifth game this season. He followed that up with his first pass-breakup on Oregon’s first offensive play. Michigan State’s sophomore cornerback immediately validated his decision to bypass a redshirt and play in his fifth game of 2018. And Scott turned in an impressive performance against Ducks quarterback Justin Herbert and receiver Dillon Mitchell, earning the Redbox Bowl’s Defensive Player of the Game in the Spartans’ 7-6 loss Monday at Levi’s Stadium. One of his motivations, Scott said, was seeing the emotions of the seniors. And he heard an important message after the game from senior safety Khari Willis. “He was just telling me in the locker room just now, ‘This is your team now,’ basically,” Scott said of Willis, one of three captains. “He said, ‘I’m gonna hand it down to you. You know what to do.’ ” Scott, who underwent meniscus surgery during preseason camp, missed the first eight games of the season. He could have sat out one of those games and used a redshirt season to preserve another year of eligibility, but felt facing Oregon would help him more going into next season — his third as a Spartan. The 5-foot-11, 175-pound Scott broke up a career-high four passes in the game. He did so while almost exclusively covering the 6-2, 189-pound Mitchell, the Ducks’ leading receiver and a second-team All-Pac-12 receiver. It was an entertaining back-and-forth between the two, with Mitchell finishing with seven catches on 13 targets for a game-high 70 receiving yards. Scott, meantime, finished with three tackles, one of which was for a loss while blowing up a screen pass from Herbert. “There was no doubt in playing the game,” Scott said. “Those guys are really good players. Justin is a heck of a quarterback — I’ve never seen a quarterback throw like him before. And then Dillon also, he ran really good routes and knew how to get off pressure really well, so I had to be on my A-game every single play.” Scott was in coverage on the 28-yard, fourth-quarter touchdown pass Herbert threw to Mitchell that ended up being the game-winner. The ball was slightly underthrown to the front right pylon. Scott turned to look for the ball and floated past Mitchell, who adjusted his route and tumbled into the end zone for the score with 11:19 to play. Scott just missed a fifth breakup that could have changed the game. “Just watching a bunch of film, I’ve seen that (Herbert) has never thrown the back-shoulder fade before, so I was playing over top,” Scott said. “I don’t know if he meant to throw it back-shoulder or not, but the ball just ended up back shoulder.” MSU heads into the offseason with Scott coming back and likely paired with senior-to-be Josh Butler, who returned from missing the final seven games of the regular season and two others with an injury he suffered in Week 3 against Indiana. That is because former starter Justin Layne left the program to prepare for the 2019 NFL draft in early December. “He didn’t miss a beat at all,” Scott said of Butler, who had one pass breakup. “He balled out, he did his thing. … We’re just gonna build on it in the offseason and just see how it plays out.” Butler was one of a few players who returned from injury for the Redbox Bowl. Junior quarterback Brian Lewerke came back after missing the final two games of the regular season and sat out one other time with a shoulder injury. The junior went 22 of 40 for 172 passing yards, and ran a career-high 16 times for a season-best 63 yards. He was sacked three times and threw an interception while under pressure deep in Oregon territory early in the game. “I thought Brian did a nice job getting out of problems,” MSU coach Mark Dantonio said. “But at the same time, he got caught some, too.” Running back LJ Scott also returned from an ankle injury, according to Dantonio, that cost him 8½ regular-season games. The senior, who will enter April's draft, equaled his season high with 84 rushing yards on 24 attempts. He appeared to injure his left leg and left the game briefly during the first half before returning. “LJ is just a special guy,” Lewerke said. “He can find the holes that some other guys wouldn’t be able to, and his ability to run over guys and still have speed and to juke, it’s unlike anyone on this team.” MSU senior offensive lineman David Beedle also dressed for the second straight game for the Spartans but did not play. Cornerback Tre Person did not dress, along with fullback Collin Lucas. MSU also was without receiver Felton Davis III , punter Jake Hartbarger, linebacker Chase Kline, punter Tyler Hunt, offensive lineman James Ohonba and tight end Noah Davis. MSU changed both of its returners for the game against Oregon. True freshman Jalen Nailor replaced Brandon Sowards as punt returner and debuted with four returns for 13 yards. He fumbled his last one, but Shakur Brown scooped it up in the fourth quarter. Junior Darrell Stewart Jr. returned to his previous role as kickoff returner, taking over for sophomore Connor Heyward. Stewart had two returns for 48 yards, including a 31-yarder in the fourth quarter after Oregon’s lone touchdown. Contact Chris Solari: email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @chrissolari.