Michigan State Starting QB Andrew Maxwell Talks About the Process
Q: Did you know this was coming?
A: I think we got a pretty good feel for it, especially heading into the rehearsal scrimmage on Thursday. Connor and I, we were working primarily with the 1’s and the other guys were with the 2’s. That’s kind of when you kinda got a feel for it. But the official word didn’t come until today, so…
Q: When they talked to you, was it those 13 starts that you made that really pushed you over the edge to get this first game start?
A: I certainly think that would be a part of it. One thing Coach Dantonio mentioned to me was the skill level between the four of us. If you look around the country at any program at this level and you look at every position on the field, the skill level is really not gonna be a whole lot different. So I think that being the case, certainly having 13 games starting under my belt helps. Just because I’ve been in situations… There’s so many things that you encounter in your first year starting that you really can’t learn in fall camp. So I think having gone through those that certainly helped me.
Q: What was the emotion when you got that news? Was it excitement, relief?
A: A little bit of both. I’m just excited. I’m happy that Coach Dantonio and the staff have the confidence in me to give me the reins again, to name me the starter. I’ve got the confidence in myself to carry out those responsibilities for the team. Hopefully they feel the same way. So I’m excited that we can kinda put all that past us and we can focus on putting points on the scoreboard and winning the game right now because that’s what’s really important. That’s what we want the story to be. That’s what we want the focus to be as a team, that we are successful down the road.
Q; Was there ever a point this year, this summer, that you didn’t feel like things were that great?
A: No. Certainly, when you split reps three or four ways there’s an uncertainty there. I don’t know if I ever sat down and said Wow, I’m not gonna be starting on the 30th, 31st. But I think it’s just… That’s just a testament to you. You have to keep pushing. You have to keep confidence in yourself. Because as soon as you start to have those kind of thoughts creep into your mind, subconsciously you maybe start to wave the write flag. That’s something that I wouldn’t allow myself to do. I had to keep pushing.
Q: Did you feel that it was kind of a test?
A: I think all it did was make me better. I think all it did was make the team better. Really every day, and I’ve said this to you guys before, you don’t have the luxury of coming out and not bringing everything you have. Because when you’ve got 2 or 3 guys ready to jump inline with you…if you come out and you don’t have it, if you come out and you don’t bring enthusiasm, if you come out and you don’t have focus…there’s 2 or 3 guys ready to take that spot. I think if anything I brought my focus every day, brought my execution every day. I think I’m a better player because of it.
Q: Is there still a gap between you and the other 3 in terms of diagnosing, decision making, reading?
A: I think so, just because I’ve been here the longest…this is my fifth year in the system. So there’s things… If you’ve ever heard the saying “things are caught more than they’re taught”. There are things that maybe aren’t taught in a media room but that you catch on and you learn from just having been through them before. I’ve made mistakes throughout my career that I can look back on and maybe we didn’t go through it step by step in the media room, but because I’ve done that, because I’ve seen that, because it’s my fifth time going through it, I’ve learned those things and I can diagnose them quicker. So I think in that aspect there’s probably a gap there.
Q: Specifically what are they…
A: I can’t think of specifics but just coverages, blitzes, tendencies from different fronts… These are all things that are pretty easy to spot on a piece of paper, but until you’re out on the field and you see it happening and you pick it up, those are things that are hard to really get a grasp on until you’ve been through it a couple of times.
Q: Dantonio asked the fans to stand behind you as a starter. What did you take away from that message?
A: I think it means a lot. I didn’t know he said that. I think certainly our goal is to please fans, but my main goal isn’t to please fans. My main goal is to please this team and this coaching staff with how I’ve played at the quarterback position. So I think if I execute my job like I can, if my team executes our jobs as we can, then we’ll be able to give back to the fans.
Q: Do you still view this as a competition moving forward? Connor said that he still wants to be the guy.
A: I think the main goal of the quarterback position on this team, the main goal of this offense, is to move the football to get points on the board. I think Coach Dantonio’s made that clear, and the staff has made that clear, that they’re gonna go with the quarterback who’s doing that the best. So that’s no different. It’s not like that’s big news. Okay, you’re the quarterback now. Now guess what, you have to move the football and put points on the board. So I feel like as long as I’m doing that to the best of my abilities, as long as we’re moving it, we’ll be in an efficient capacity, we’ll be efficient to move the football and score the points, then it stays my job. But the second that I don’t do that, the second I’m not converting third downs, I’m not being very effective in the pass game, then just like any position on the field you wanna put people out there to do that job.
Q: Can you describe that relief you talked about after the bowl game and you were the starter again?
A: I think the biggest relief is that we can put it past us and focus on the game. At this point we’re 3 days away from the game and we want our entire focus to be on Western Michigan. We want our entire focus to be on the task at hand. What do we have to do to get a win? The main goal of this season is not deciding the starting quarterback. The main goal of this season is a championship. As long as we’re battling and the hubbub and the questions kinda loom around the quarterback position, that detracts from our goal. That detracts from our focus of pursing a championship. So now that this is settled, for now at least, we can put our focus on Western Michigan and the season that lies ahead of us.
Q: How do you handle that pressure of knowing someone is right behind you? When things go wrong how are you gonna handle that adversity?
A: I think you just need to learn… A quarterback needs to learn how to do 2 things. You need to learn how to play – you need to learn how to play when things are going really well. And you need to learn how to play through tough times and play through mistakes. You said it, something is gonna go wrong. That’s not just unique to us, that’s every single place that’s playing football. Something will go wrong at some point. The question is how do we respond, how do we react, how does the quarterback play through that. We have the same views around here all the time…it’s “play for the next play”. It’s been said for years that quarterbacks have to have short memories. If something bad goes wrong and as Coach says, Spit it out and play for the next play. So I think that’s gotta be my focus and the focus of the offense. Things are gonna go bad for us, but how do we respond. And that’s not the end-all be-all, but how do we go from there?
Q: Do you think this was predetermined to an extent or do you think this was a competition you won in the last month?
A: That’s something that you’d have to ask Coach D. But certainly I feel like we all got chances throughout spring ball, throughout fall camp. So I don’t know if you can look at that and say that it was predetermined, but… If it was truly a competition, then I’m happy that Coach Dantonio and the staff felt that I was the best one coming out of it and give his team the best chance.
Q: On the outside it was confusing with you getting equal reps, etc. Were you ever confused, wondering what was going on in the coach’s mind?
A: I think they were pretty clear throughout the whole process that they were gonna give everybody a chance and they were gonna go with the person who they felt gave this team the best chance to move the football, to score points on the board. From that aspect, they were pretty forthright saying we’re gonna give everybody a chance to move the football and we’re gonna see who does it the best. So I think from that aspect you could say it was pretty clear and there wasn’t much confusion.
Q: Did you feel extra pressure after the scrimmage and all the attention on Terry? Did you respond to that? Did you play your best football in the last week or so?
A: I think that’s kinda when the pressure got taken off of me. Actually, Sally Nogle, who’s our head trainer, reminded me a few times. Right around that time she said, Look, you’re not out there to beat 3 other quarterbacks. You’re out there to beat a defense. I think once I took more of a mindset of, I can’t control the number of reps I get but I can control what I do with the rest when I’m in there. When I’m on the field I’m not looking over my shoulder trying to beat 3 other quarterbacks. I’m looking in front of me trying to beat a defense and trying to move the ball for the team. I think from that standpoint that’s kinda of where it turned for me where I really put my focus on what can I do to make the most of these reps and make them count.
Q: When did she say that?
A: When did she say that? That’s actually something she’s said to me for the last 2 weeks or so.
Q: Did you play your best? That last week do you feel like you took it to another level?
A: I think so. I thought I had a good last week at camp. I thought I had a good rehearsal scrimmage last Thursday and I thought I started the week well yesterday.