Last Saturday marked the 10th time in the last 14 meetings that the outcome of a match up between Michigan State and Notre Dame has been decided by a just touchdown or less. While it was a close, back-and-forth battle for most of the game, it was MSU head coach Mark Dantonio's final decision during the Spartans' last drive that has many green and white fans shaking their heads in disgust. On Sunday, Dantonio finally provided some answers to his logic.
So just what was the controversial call? Just why did Mark Dantonio, with less than two minutes left and the game on the line, give the ball to backup quarterback Andrew Maxwell for the final drive instead of sticking with the game's starter, Connor Cook?
Cook had played fairly well considering the environment and foe, and many aspects of the normally sluggish offense were actually proving to be somewhat functional. Cook was poised (considering he was starting his first game in Notre Dame Stadium) and hitting a number of his marks. So why, oh why, did Mark Dantonio take Cook out for the final drive and insert Maxwell?
Maxwell hadn't played a single down in any other moment of the game. Maxwell hadn't called any of the previous plays with the offense. Maxwell was cold on the sidelines and thrust into an unimaginably tense and difficult situation that ultimately proved to be too much for him (he missed on all three of his passes before running for eight yards on a fourth-and-20).
Dantonio told reporters on Sunday that he felt Connor Cook had struggled during the game, as well as in practice, during the two-minute offense and that former starter Maxwell had been great in those circumstances. Still, Dantonio has to realize that there's a much larger difference between being good at something on the practice field and being at it in the final two minutes of a big game when you're down four points to the Fighting Irish in South Bend.
Regardless, Dantonio says that he's not making any hasty decisions based on any player's performance during the game against Notre Dame.
“I don’t want to be the person who makes knee-jerk reactions and makes decisions based on something that happened … for example something that happened yesterday,” Dantonio said. “I don’t want to make a decision today on something of that nature. We’ve got to look long term.
“I think it’s important to our players, just sort of re-establish themselves, re-evaluate themselves. We’ll re-evaluate our coaches, we’ll re-evaluate what we’re doing. But everybody needs to take a look at sort of put their foot in the ground and drive forward, regroup and get ready to play Iowa (on October 5).”
You can follow MSU writer, Michael Ferro, at twitter.com/MichaelFerro.