Gene Swindoll, Gene's Page

Mississippi State senior center Jamaal Clayborn shares his thoughts on his unit's progress this season.

Mississippi State entered the year looking to replace a pair of starters on the left side of the offensive line. While three seniors returned to man the other spots on Coach John Hevesy's first team depth chart, the Bulldogs had to find some chemistry. Three games into the season, the unit appears to be making some solid strides.

Last weekend on the road at LSU, Jamaal Clayborn had one of his better games. Grading out with a solid performance against one of the SEC's top defensive lines. While some personal praise may be in order, Clayborn reports that the only grade he is concerned with is a winning one on the scoreboard.

"It's hard to really talk about how I played since we didn't pull out the win," Clayborn said. "I feel like I have made some progress, but it's about getting the win more than anything else. Coach (John) Hevesy talked with me about the things I need to improve on. He's the kind of coach who grades you on your mistakes, so that you always have something to work on."

In the third quarter against LSU, the Bulldog offensive line began to exert itself and win the war in the trenches. Mississippi State played perhaps its' most physical half of offensive football in Baton Rouge as the team nearly pulled off a late upset.

"That's what we are striving towards," Clayborn said. "It's all a process and it's something we are working toward. I feel like we really started to come together. We just have to keep it going and have a good game this week.

"I feel like our demeanor changed at halftime. When Coach (Dan) Mullen came in the locker room he didn't say ya'll are doing terrible or anything like that. He told us to quit worrying about the score or win or loss. He wanted us to go out there in the second half and give it all we had and not worry about the score or the fans in the stands. That's what we did in the second half and I feel like it relaxed us."

Clayborn admits that the Bulldogs were a little tense in the early going of the ball game and that some nerves needed to be settled before the team could really fire on all cylinders.

"I think we played uptight in the first half," Clayborn said. "It was a big game and the LSU game win or loss always has a big impact on our season. The year we went to #1, we beat LSU. The last three years, our game with LSU could go either way including this year. It's been close and it's come down to one play three years in a row."

The Bulldogs will look to put the loss to LSU behind them and prepare for an important game this weekend on the road against UMASS at Gillette Stadium, the home of the New England Patriots. Clayborn reports that the Minutemen have an active defensive front.

"The move around a lot," Clayborn said of UMASS. "They shift a lot, they twist a lot and they blitz a lot. You're going to see it all. You are going to see all variations, odd fronts with four down or five down. They are smaller guys, but they are really athletic. You have to really be ready to move your feet a lot."

While non-conference games can often turn into glorified scrimmages, Clayborn reports that the Bulldogs are locked in. With the sting of an upset loss to South Alabama in week one, Mississippi State cannot afford to take any opponent lightly.

"This game is really going to check our footwork and it's going to be important for me to tell everybody what kind of front we're in," Clayborn said. "I have to make the right calls and keep everybody on the same page."

The first ever meeting between the two schools will also feature a rather unique venue as the Bulldogs will take the field at Gillette Stadium, the home of the NFL's New England Patriots. The chance to play at another pro venue is something Clayborn is excited about.

"I think it's going to be pretty cool to be in the Patriots' stadium, but at the end of the day, once they kick the ball off it is going to be just like any other field," Clayborn shared. "Just walking into the stadium before the game will be a big deal. There aren't a lot of people that get to do that and there are a lot of people that never even get to go to a Patriots' game. I have never been to Boston so it's a new experience for me too."

At 1-2, Mississippi State has to have a sense of urgency in an effort to keep their bowl hopes alive. A win this weekend is imperative. With some important games coming in the month of October, the Bulldogs will look to get a win this week and enjoy an open date before hitting the heart of the 2016 slate.

"We have to continue to take care of our bodies," Clayborn said. "We just have to get better everyday. The biggest thing is that we can't hit the panic button. We just have to take it one day at a time, one practice at a time and give relentless effort in all we do."


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