Steve Robertson -

New Position and Coach's Confidence Turns Calvin Loose to Make More Plays

Yes,vhe thought about it. When DE Jonathan Calvin grabbed Saturday’s game-deciding interception, he considered really sealing things. As in running back his interception for six points.

“I was going to try to return it, turn it into a video game!” Calvin declared. And for a few moments the senior did juke around looking for openings…while from the Mississippi State sideline most shouted to go down and avoid a return-turnover that would keep UMass somewhat alive.

Fortunately after going backwards “That didn’t work out, so I just got down. I was kind of holding it with a palm,” admitted Calvin. “First interception, though!”

It was, his first pick as a Bulldog. It also capped a couple of productive weekends on the road for Calvin. He tied for first in tackles yesterday at nine, 2.0 of those for losses with a half-sack. A week ago at LSU he had three tackles with another TFL, and blocked a PAT as well. Of course what is recalled more was Calvin bumping, if that much, the Tiger placekicker on an earlier attempt that let the Tigers take three points off the board and go for a touchdown.

The point is Calvin has emerged this season as a big-play producer both at the ‘viper’ position and on special teams. Calvin now has 4.0 tackles for losses out of 19 total stops with 1.5 sacks, an interception, a recovered fumble, and the block. As a result of course Calvin is getting more and more attention every week. UMass in particular schemed ways to make his job tougher.

“I love getting to the quarterback, but I hate seeing the quarterback make plays,” Calvin said. “Especially with them chipping me. I don’t like it.”

Calvin best get used to chips and chops and whatever else blockers do. The potential for play-making was always there in the juco transfer, and as a backup in last fall’s 4-3 system Calvin collected 27 tackles with 5.5 behind the line and 1.5 sacks. New coordinator Peter Sirmon’s 3-4 base with the viper position has certainly been a blessing for this Dog.

Yet Calvin said it’s more about what his head coach has done for him, in making him comfortable just playing ball.

“Coach Mullen just lets me go. It’s no pressure, last year I was worried what if I mess up here, what if I mess up there.”

The only messing-up so far this year is what Calvin is doing to opponents. Now he and the rest of the Bulldogs have a week to evaluate September’s uneven results on all sides of the squad, before what looms as the pivotal three-game stretch of Auburn, at Brigham Young, and at Kentucky. At 2-2, Mississippi State’s possibilities for extending a record string of six bowl teams hang on how Mullen’s team handles that trio of tests.

Mullen has a short work week scheduled, with just two days of media access to players and coaches.

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