Senior cornerback Calhoun means no disrespect to previous opponents. Those four foes did present the Mississippi State secondary with varied challenges. Quick throwing at Southern Miss when the ground game was shut down; pure power running from LSU; and quick dashes at edges by Northwestern State and Auburn.
But this is Texas A&M. They can do something of everything of course, but the Aggie calling-card is spread-scheme passes all over the place with tough running to keep defenses honest. Especially in the defensive backfield, where every play is a guess and wrong answers mean touchdowns.
“So this game is going to probably define our secondary, how good we can be this year,” Calhoun said.
Given Mississippi State’s defensive status in several SEC categories, such as third-down conversions and red-zone stops, the whole unit is doing right good in lots of areas. Yet, the corners and safeties figure they haven’t been truly tested. Not until now. Not until they show what they can, hopefully, do against these Aggies.
Calhoun has a word for how his group feels. “I just think urgency,” he said of the practice approach. “Just knowing those guys are probably going to be a lot better than some of our younger receivers on the scout team.”
Yeah, as impressive as some of Mississippi State’s new and reserve wideouts were in August camp, and for all their future potential…mimicking Texas A&M in both talents and style is a lot to ask. So it seems the defensive backs have set themselves a standard of practice near-perfection this week.
“So just urgency, try to not let the scout team catch passes and prevent big plays.” Even though it’s probably a little easier in practice, it’s going to be a lot different in the game. Especially playing on the road.”
Bulldog defenders are coming off one strong showing on the road. Most everyone played well enough at Auburn to not only keep the home team from scoring a touchdown, but to slam red-zone doors in Tiger facemasks. Calhoun’s counterpart Will Redmond had a clutch interception, the safeties supported in time to prevent really big breaks. Best of all, the tackling looked lots better than the previous weeks.
That’s something Calhoun can take particular pride in. After all, he is regarded as maybe the finest one-on-one tackler on this team, at any position. But…he is a cornerback. Better that no pass gets caught in the first place, rather than have to make a clean tackle afterwards.
“I mean you never back down from a challenge. I think I prefer this type of game. As a corner you live for games like this.”
But, not live-and-die by every snap. It’s said good cornerbacks have short memories. This week Bulldog DBs will need to wipe the mental board clear often. This doesn’t mean Calhoun will not carry confidence onto Kyle Field.
“You have to go in thinking they’re not going to make a play on you. Even though you know it’s going to happen. But you have to go out there ready to compete.
“They’ve got some good players, some talented receivers. But you have to feel just as talented as they are. If you don’t, it’s going to show in the game.”
As well as on the scoreboard. Maybe even on the record. Last week’s win did balance the Bulldog books in SEC action. Now #21 State shows up Saturday an underdog to the #14 Aggies, as would be expected. Not since 1997 has a Bulldog won consecutive weekends on the SEC West road. Doing it this year would be a terrific forward step for the ’15 team.
So, back to the urgency from the defensive backfield.
“I know a lot of this game is going to depend on the secondary,” Calhoun said. “How well we play, how well we tackle, and how well we prevent big plays.”