Maxwell must improve under pressure
These days, it’s difficult not to respect Andrew Maxwell.
For more than a year, the senior quarterback has been hounded by fans and media with questions about the merit of his right arm, his decision making and the ineptitude of MSU’s offense. And each time, Maxwell has met criticism with consistently polite answers, often deflecting his personal pressure for the best interests of the team.
It’s one of Maxwell’s most noble qualities, cut from a similar cloth as his predecessor Kirk Cousins, who won over the Spartan faithful with back-to-back 11 win seasons and a Big Ten championship in 2010.
Unlike his predecessor, Maxwell continues to struggle and the Spartans’ offense has struggled right along with him since he took over prior to the 2012 campaign. And despite being only one game into a new season, the continued faith in Maxwell should be a cause for concern.
During Friday’s 26-13 victory against Western Michigan, Maxwell was 11-of-21 passing for 74 yards, while splitting repetitions with sophomore Connor Cook. Despite opening the game on a 5-of-5 tear, dropped passes and inconsistency permanently interrupted the flow of the offense, allowing the team’s defense to bear the weight of the scoring.
There’s plenty of fault to go around when analyzing the team’s offensive shortcomings. After all, the Spartans only managed 297 total yards of offense against the Broncos, struggling to string together successful drives and punting the ball 11 times.
At this rate, junior punter Mike Sadler’s foot might shrivel up and fall off.
Maxwell’s own struggles were highlighted as the MSU student section worked its way into a “We want Terry” chant Friday evening, in reference to freshman quarterback Damion Terry — the fan-anointed white knight of the offense. The shortcomings of Maxwell and Cook further open the door to take a look at Terry and redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor in the coming weeks.
On a Sunday teleconference, football head coach Mark Dantonio wouldn’t tip his hand if a change is imminent at QB.
“First of all, those decisions are made in-house and will be shared with the players involved as we move forward,” Dantonio said. “I’m not prepared to answer that question at this point in time.”
Now there were a lot factors working against Maxwell on Friday, most notably a rash of drops by the wide receivers and the hour-long weather delay. Throwing Cook into the mix at various turns couldn’t have helped much, either.
It’s tough to find a rhythm when the coaches keep changing the tune.
Yet, it seems there’s always a reason why Maxwell isn’t completely to blame. At some point, there has to be accountability, which Maxwell and others seem to understand.
“You don’t want to defer blame, you don’t want to defer fault like that,” Maxwell said Friday. “As quarterbacks, there’s a couple plays I wish I could have done something differently, and I’m sure Connor will tell you the same thing.”
The clock is trending towards midnight in the career of Maxwell. But like it or not, he’s going to get a few more chances to prove he’s the right guy for the job — the next one likely coming Saturday against lowly South Florida (noon, ESPNU).
Maxwell might have all the right answers in the face of adversity, a trait which endeared Cousins to the community in times of trouble. However, until he starts slinging the ball more like his predecessor, Maxwell is doomed to another season in purgatory.
Dillon Davis is a State News football beat reporter. Reach him at email@example.com.