LARRY LAGE,AP Sports Writer
EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Andrew Maxwell has waited a long time for this, to take snaps for Michigan State in a game like Saturday night’s showdown against Notre Dame.
“We got to bring a little something special this game,” Maxwell said Tuesday.
Instead of going to a school that would give him a shot to start right away, Maxwell went from Midland High School to Michigan State with the expectation that he was going to have to sit behind quarterback Kirk Cousins.
And sit he did. Maxwell redshirted his freshman season and was the team’s No. 2 QB the past two seasons, playing in just four games last year.
He survived his first start, a win over Boise State, and thrived in his second, a rout over Central Michigan. Maxwell is the first player to lead the Spartans to wins in his first two starts since Jeff Smoker did it in 2000.
Cousins is not surprised.
“I knew we wouldn’t miss a beat with Andrew when I left,” said Cousins, who is now backing up Robert Griffin III with the Washington Redskins.
As happy as QBs coach Dave Warner is with Maxwell’s play, he said the stage and stakes will be higher when the 10th-ranked Spartans host No. 22 Notre Dame.
“It will be a whole other level for him in terms of pressure,” Warner said. “We’re about to find out a lot more about him.”
Cousins said he got to know a lot about Maxwell, who drives a truck and loves Pearl Jam, by sharing a hotel room with him before home and away games and living in the same apartment complex.
“He’s a pickup truck kind of guy,” Cousins said. “He’s the kind of guy you want running your program. He’s mature, articulate, guys respond to him and he’s tough.”
Maxwell, who hasn’t been sacked yet, has completed 42 of 69 passes for 523 yards with two touchdowns — both against Central Michigan — and three interceptions, all against Boise State. He handed off the ball 44 times to Le’Veon Bell in the opener, but was 20 of 31 for 275 yards with two TDs last Saturday.
“I felt like the premise needed to be on Maxwell this past weekend,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “I wanted him to throw for 300 yards. I wanted to get our wide receivers involved. I thought that was important. We can’t make it just on one guy running the football over and over and over.”
Maxwell will be tested by the Fighting Irish, who will likely come up with a game plan to slow down Bell and force an inexperienced QB to make plays through the air.
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has a formidable front seven on defense, but expects his team to be challenged by the strong-armed, 6-foot-3, 212-pound Maxwell.
“You can see that there was a big difference in his play from Week 1 to Week 2,” Kelly said. “You can see that he’s gaining some more confidence.”
Maxwell is confident the bright lights and hype surrounding the Notre Dame will not rattle him after playing in prime time against Boise State.
“I think already having one big night game under our belt as a team is going to help tremendously,” he said. “It kind of takes a little bit of the shock and the awe factor out of it.”
Associated Press writer Tom Coyne in South Bend, Ind., contributed to this report.
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