Video/Feature: Guard Applies Opening Loss Anger To Building Better Blocking

The voice was calm. The words, those were clear. And strong. “Yes sir, I am mad,” said Deion Calhoun.

Yes sir, three days later this big Bulldog remains upset about, well, being upset. Personally upset.

“Because that was a game we’re supposed to have easily won,” Mississippi State’s offensive guard said. “I was telling Kobe Jones today at practice our scout team d-line was way better than the South Alabama guys.”

Alright, that might not be politically-correct talk from the losing team. But Calhoun is not dismissing the opponents’ efforts in spoiling Saturday for Dogs. He is bluntly honest.

“We’re supposed to have won the game hands-down.”

Since they didn’t, the Bulldogs (0-1) find themselves in unexpected recovery mode ahead of their SEC schedule opener. Bouncing back is now tougher than anticipated too as South Carolina (1-0, 1-0) scored a modest upset of their own in beating Vanderbilt—my, how the league-world has changed—on September 1.

Thus the Gamecocks have had a couple extra days to evaluate their opening and get ready for another conference contest. In Mississippi State’s case it is best they got right back into game week, with less time to stew over upset. Calhoun saw it Monday as the Dogs assembled at Seal Complex.

“When you lose a game everybody has a different demeanor, everybody is down. So Coach (Dan) Mullen came out and said he let us down. It’s up to us now to pick it back up and everybody have that chip on our shoulder. We have something to prove.”

That includes Bulldog blocking. Coach John Hevesy said game-one line execution was solid on the whole; but the 20% or so of missed assignment and technical breakdowns were costly. Right guard Calhoun agrees.

“Just going the wrong way, not finishing blocks. Just going brain-dead sometimes.” Which is more strong talk for sure. Calhoun includes himself in this hard assessment, too.

“It’d just be here and there. And those plays really cost us when we looked on film. I can say one play I was supposed to go left and I ended up going right. If I would have just touched the man by this much it might would have scored.”

Calhoun referred to a second-half reverse run by WR Keith Mixon. Watching it again makes him mad again, just at himself.

“All I had to do was put a hand on him and we would have scored. Because the man I didn’t touch is the man that tackled Keith.” And yes, Calhoun added. “It’s still bothering me. Because if we had had that we probably would have won the game.”

Recriminations of self and squad do help vent internal emotion. But the Bulldogs now must take those examples and just flat fix them. The missed communications, the mental errors, lapses in focus are what Calhoun stressed in review. At the same time, there were legitimate positives to point to as building blocks for better blocking.

“I felt like we played good, but we still have things we have to get better at as a unit. More communication. But that’s going to be as the season goes on.”

About communication… All preseason it was assumed Calhoun would start at left guard and senior Devon Desper right. Now Calhoun’s only college start had been on the left slot, but that was because the Belk Bowl line had to be revamped with injury. Obviously it all went very well that rainy day.

Still in spring and preseason Calhoun was practicing left. Then on opening day, Desper and he flipped again. It wasn’t anything technical, he explained.

It was pure pragmatism.

“Because when I was playing left guard, me and Elgton (Jenkins, left tackle) we’re still redshirt sophomores. So we don’t have all the answers yet. But Desper is a fifth-year senior. So he moved him by Elgton so that got him more experience; and I moved by (right tackle Justin) Senior which is the same thing. It helped us out a lot.”

Especially so with pre-snap communicating. Though, clearly, there remains much to work on because that Jaguar defensive line still made plays. Now it’s a SEC front the Bulldogs will face in South Carolina.

“I’m expecting to see a lot of twisting, a lot of slanting,” Calhoun said. “So that’s where the communication has got to come in with us, we’re going to have to just communicate better and I think we’ll be good.”

Getting good matters more than anyone anticipated. That stumbling start can’t be erased and could still cost the Dogs dearly in bowl eligibility calculations. For now, all this squad can think about is getting that first victory, and a SEC success at that.

Which will allow Calhoun to leave Scott Field happy this time.

“I can say when I was looking through my social media Saturday I saw fans just upset with us. And I can understand their pain. So we really have to come out with South Carolina and prove everybody wrong.”

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