No wonder. Last Saturday was Calhoun’s first real action in a while. “Since what, January 1st?” he asked. Yep, since exiting the Orange Bowl around midnight. Spring camp, summer training, preseason practicing, it’s all part of the game.
But getting on Scott Field and making immediate contact with real opponents? Naturally the senior cornerback was feeling his age on Sunday.
“But my knee is healthy,” said Calhoun. “I don’t have any problems.”
Not now that the knee situation from mid-August is settled down and Mississippi State has its ranking corner back in action. Possibly even ready to return to the starting lineup this third weekend. Not that Calhoun resents having to rotate-in on the second LSU series, understand.
“It felt good being away for a long time. I felt a little rusty but overall I think I did pretty well for the first time being out. It felt good being out there with my teammates.”
Knocking off the rust was one reason for post-game soreness. Getting four official tackles credited and a whole lot more supporting contact that doesn’t show on stat sheets will do that to a Dog. Even an old one who has now played in 39 games and started 25 of ‘em.
In fact, were it not for this August’s setback and another injury before the 2013 Liberty Bowl, it’s likely Calhoun would be on a 26-game starting streak by now. Never mind, he’s just happy to be back on the field this senior season after being held out in the 2015 opener.
“Yeah, I felt I could have played. But we didn’t want to risk it anything. It would probably have been a risk. But we felt comfortable with the guys we had going into the game so it wasn’t a need for me to play.”
Getting comfortable was a somewhat surprising issue when Calhoun replaced starter Tolando Cleveland for the second series last Saturday. A Dog of such experience would be instantly at-home, right? Almost.
“It just took me a minute to get adjusted to the game speed. But I’ve played a long time. My experience helped me out in the game. Just getting a feel of how fast the game goes compared to practice, that’s the main thing. I caught on pretty quick.”
Speaking of ‘catch’… The Tigers didn’t test State’s secondary all that often with only 14 official passes thrown (a couple came back on penalties including a completed touchdown, remember). One might think a guy coming off injury carrying rust would welcome fewer coverage tests.
This only presented different challenges, Calhoun said. “You just have to stay alert the whole game,” he said. Besides, the way LSU ran the ball they did not have to throw a lot.
“As far as corners, the way we play defense we’re a part of the running game so I wouldn’t say it was a boring game! We do have to come up a lot and try to tackle.”
Now. Moving forward. Calhoun and cohorts are scouting a Northwestern (La.) State squad which hasn’t thrown just 37 passes in two games with 91 rushes. The Demons aren’t a consistent offense, but they do have a tendency to swing for the fences and hit enough big runs or throws to keep defenses honest.
Be certain Calhoun would like to start. But if Cleveland gets the nod again, on the corner opposite Will Redmond, the old guy understands. Cleveland didn’t just get the job by default.
“I think he played real well the first week. Against LSU he played another solid game, made a lot of tackles, I think he’s really stepped up this year into his role. He’s definitely become a leader on defense and hopefully he has success throughout the rest of the season.”
Besides, Calhoun knows whenever the first snap comes, he will play. In fact he’s among the first four Bulldogs to take the field each week, healthy or not. Calhoun is serving as a 2015 team captain, by selection of his peers.
“It’s an honor. It’s great. And just the hard work over the five years, you have the respect from your teammates to vote you as a captain and represent this team and this University. I don’t take it lightly.”