TEMPE, Ariz. — At the midpoint of the season, even at the end of October, Andrew Maxwell seemed to be progressing as MSU’s quarterback.
By the end of Saturday night’s Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, he was no longer MSU’s quarterback. Just one of four quarterbacks who will compete to be under center next season.
Maxwell’s November and December were an obvious regression. Parts of October were a struggle, too.
After going five games without an interception (after the opener), Maxwell threw six in the final six games.
And, after completing a modest 56 percent his passes through nine games, he connected on just 43 percent in the Spartans’ final three games, even as MSU’s receivers improved and tight end Dion Sims regained his health.
One has to wonder if close November losses to Nebraska and Northwestern would have turned out differently if redshirt freshman Connor Cook had been at QB?
Maybe Cook wasn’t ready. Perhaps his gunslinger mentality would have led to more turnovers and those gut-wrenching defeats would have been more one-sided.
What I do believe to know is this: MSU’s offense under Maxwell never got any better. It floundered in first halves on a weekly basis and then sometimes pulled out a drive or two late. In essence, we all watched the same game over and over, a “Groundhog Day” of sorts.
MSU had the defense, the running back and, for part of the year, a big-time tight end. And it finished the regular season 6-6. And would have been 6-7 had it stuck with its quarterback.
I like Andrew Maxwell. Think a lot of him for how he treats people and handles difficult situations and that he’s dorky enough to admit “We Bought a Zoo” is his favorite movie.
Early on this season, I thought he made good decisions on the field, too.
But this is big-boy football. Ultimately, as much as anything, it’s about producing and winning. And Maxwell wasn’t doing that much late in the season.
I wonder if Cook hadn’t thrown that pick-six in mop-up duty to ruin the shutout against Central Michigan, if he would have been given a chance earlier?
And I wonder what was so different about this Saturday than several others that finally prompted MSU’s coaches to pull the plug on Maxwell?
It’ll be an interesting next eight months following the quarterback situation. It’s impossible to know who will be starting next year’s opener. My sense is it’s not Maxwell. He was given his shot and, Saturday, MSU finally moved on.
He’ll have his chances this spring, but unless he looks decidedly better, his 13-game resume says too much.
Do you think MSU should have gone with Cook earlier? Who do you see as the Spartans starting QB next season?