Andrew Maxwell was far from perfect Friday night.
The junior quarterback quickly became rattled by Boise State’s relentless pursuit in the backfield. He threw three interceptions in his first career start — two of them handed away by his receivers being unable to haul in the pass.
Those mistakes caused Maxwell to lose confidence in his receiving corps. But as it turns out, Maxwell didn’t have to put all his trust in his equally inexperienced teammates — because he had a security blanket.
Maxwell found junior tight end Dion Sims seven times for 65 yards over the course of the game, including a crucial third down conversion where Maxwell threw high and counted on the six-foot-five Sims to go up and get it. And he did. For 18 yards and a first down that put the Spartans at first and goal on the seven yard line.
“He’s a great guy to go to when you know you need three or four yars that he’s going to be there,” Maxwell said. “He’s a great guy to look out there and you have that assurance that he’s going to do what he needs to do.”
Sims was playing in his fourth ever career start, and he became the go-to guy for Maxwell when he was being chased around in the backfield by white jerseys. Aside from junior running back Le’Veon Bell, Sims was the Spartans’ most effective contributor on offense, drawing the Bronco defense to him and allowing for Bell to find room around the outsides.
“Dion Sims did a heck of a job,” offensive coordinator Dan Roushar said. “He played very well and made some big plays at key times. He also blocked very well, so that was impressive.”
Despite his statistics, Sims’ biggest contribution to the Spartans was allowing Maxwell to settle down and get back into his own skin. He played a major role in the final two drives of the game, making first down plays and springing key blocks for Bell to sprint through.
“These are the type of games where the turnovers have a way of deflating you, and they kept happening,” head coach Mark Dantonio said. “Going into the fourth quarter, we needed the last two drives to get the win and we got them — and that’s what impressed me. Guys grew up a little bit.”
For Maxwell, that growing up had a lot to do with the performance and reliability of Sims.
Who says you can’t grow up and still have a security blanket?
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