Maxwell continues growth at QB for MSU

EAST LANSING — Quarterback Andrew Maxwell’s game-tying drive against Wisconsin brought coach Mark Dantonio back to a similar situation three years ago — first-year starter Kirk Cousins leading Michigan State down the field as the clock melted away at Notre Dame.

That drive ended in a pick. But that’s not the point.

“He had that same feel,” Dantonio said of Cousins then and comparing it to Maxwell on Saturday. “He went down the field at the end of the game with an opportunity to win it. … He sort of came of age. He threw the ball. He knew he had a bad throw or bad decision, but he also knew he made the plays to get down there. Because of that, I think he flourished from that point on.”

After another day filled with frustration and punts, Maxwell took the Spartans 75 yards, completing eight of nine passes to send the game to overtime. He won it in the extra session with a 12-yard touchdown pass to Bennie Fowler, after reading the defense and checking into a play that took advantage of man coverage on Fowler.

It gave the Spartans an emotional lift and a great shot to end the season in a New Year’s Day bowl. They hope it also becomes a moment of newfound confidence for Maxwell.

“It doesn’t hurt the confidence, that’s for sure,” said Maxwell, a fourth-year junior and first-year starter who will take aim Saturday at Nebraska’s surging defense.

“I thought he cut it loose,” Dantonio said of Maxwell. “That’s what you have to do. You have to be confident in your own abilities. At some point in time, I think you get there.”

Maxwell is second in the Big Ten with 2,015 passing yards, but his passing efficiency rating of 113.4 does not rank in the top 10. He has completed 55.9 percent of his passes, with nine touchdowns and five interceptions.

He has been adversely affected by a subpar rushing game, a banged-up offensive line that has had some protection leaks, and a receiving corps that floundered early and has improved lately.

And he has struggled at times with accuracy and touch, and a tendency to get rid of the ball to a safety outlet before allowing routes to develop.

“When the bullets are flying around you, per se, things get hectic, can you stay true to those reads?” Maxwell said. “Or do you go to the quickest, which I’m guilty of doing? I think I’ve been going through my complete read (lately) and finding the guy that’s open.”

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Posted by Tribune News Services

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