SOUTH BEND, Ind. — After some issues with accuracy and multiple touchdown-less drives, Michigan State senior quarterback Andrew Maxwell replaced sophomore Connor Cook on the Spartans’ final drive of their 17-13 loss to No. 22 Notre Dame on Saturday.
During that final drive, Maxwell went 0 for 3 and had an eight-yard rush which led to Michigan State turning the ball over on downs with 1:46 left to play.
Cook, who was “surprised” that he didn’t play on the final drive, was a subtle 16 of 32 for 135 yards and a touchdown before being pulled for the senior.
It looked as if Cook had injured his shoulder on the drive before, saying that his arm was “numb for a bit,” but he stated that was not the reason that he was benched for the final drive.
“I think they were maybe a little concerned with my arm, but I didn’t talk to Coach D about it,” Cook said. “I talked to Coach Salem and they just said they were going with Andrew.”
Dantonio said that he replaced Cook with Maxwell “to try to change the pace,” but it “didn’t work out.”
“Felt like he (Maxwell) needed an opportunity, should give him an opportunity,” Dantonio said.
That statement leads me to ask two questions: How many more opportunities does he need? Opportunity for what?
Maxwell came out of the four-man quarterback race that took place during summer camp as the victor, but after two weeks of not being able to produce against Western Michigan and South Florida he was sent to No. 2 on the depth chart.
After weeks of juggling quarterbacks in and out, Dantonio named Cook the starter heading into the Youngstown State game and stated after the Spartans’ victory that Cook was the starter and that there was “no more competition” at the quarterback position.
Clearly after the decision to pull Cook, that statement is up in the air.
It’s hard to instill confidence in your starting quarterback when you bench him for the potential game-winning drive in the biggest game of his life, but Dantonio has preached the importance of scoring touchdowns in the red zone, and Cook realizes that they were lacking in that department.
“Execution,” Cook said. “We weren’t executing. I know the one play we had by Macgarrett (Kings) that was a really nice catch by him, but another one we had a back shoulder call and it was a bad look. The corners eyes were on me and it’s not the kind of look you want to get for the back shoulder. It’s just execution. Once you get the ball in the red zone, you gotta execute and that’s for touchdowns. You can’t settle for field goals.”
Still, despite Cook’s “average” play, as he described it, Dantonio wouldn’t have benched the guy that he said a week ago was his starting quarterback if he didn’t have doubts.
Cook said that Michigan State quarterback coach Brad Salem told him after the game that he was “still going to be the No. 1 guy,” but with a below-average to mediocre performance, and a bye week ahead, the MSU quarterback carousel that had seemed to come to an end looks like it may be starting back up again in the near future.