Mississippi State defensive lineman Nick James (88) celebrates after Auburn's Daniel Carlson (38) missed a field goal during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Sept. 26, 2015, in Auburn, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
Butch Dill
September 28, 2015

STARKVILLE, Miss. (AP) Mississippi State's season is back on the upswing after a crucial road win against Auburn.

Now the 21st-ranked Bulldogs (3-1, 1-1 Southeastern Conference) are back in the national rankings and have a little momentum heading into another tough road game against No. 14 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0) on Saturday.

''I'm sure everyone wants to win the SEC West undefeated, but that doesn't happen very often,'' Mississippi State coach Dan Mullen said. ''But if you get two losses early in the season, that's really hard to come back from.''

Mississippi State doesn't have to worry about that after a hard-fought 17-9 win over the Tigers last Saturday. Dak Prescott threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to help the Bulldogs build a 14-0 lead and then the defense held Auburn to just three field goals.

Now Mississippi State is trying to sort through a strange offensive start to the season.

Mullen has earned the reputation of a coach who likes to run the ball during his seven-year tenure, but the Bulldogs have the fewest running attempts in the league through four games. They had just 56 yards rushing against Auburn.

Yet Mullen scoffed at the idea that Mississippi State needed more balance.

''You know one thing that hasn't been brought up in our offensive meetings? Balance,'' Mullen said. ''The thing that's brought up is how do we get first downs, how do we move the ball and how do we get into the end zone? I'm good with whatever's working.''

It's safe to say Mississippi State will need to score more than 17 points to beat Texas A&M.

The Aggies are third in the league with 41.5 points per game and have averaged 40 points over their last three games against the Bulldogs.

Prescott appears well-suited to lead the Bulldogs if the game turns into a touchdown bonanza. The senior has thrown for 1,069 yards, seven touchdowns and no interceptions.

He's thrown 191 passes without an interception dating back to last year's loss to Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl. The streak is currently the longest in the nation and the sixth longest in SEC history.

Prescott's passing numbers are up from last season, but his running stats are trending down with 121 yards rushing and two touchdowns. The current pace would give him less than half of his 986 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns from last season.

Brandon Holloway, who stands just 5-foot-8 and 165 pounds, is the team's leading rusher with 134 yards.

Prescott believes the Bulldogs can turn back into a running team if needed.

''We're built for whatever,'' Prescott said. ''We've just got to score more points than the other team. Doesn't matter if it's 50 points or 20.''

Mullen said the switch to more passing is simply a product of what opposing defenses are giving the Bulldogs. He said teams are still trying to stop Mississippi State's running game so the coaching staff is using its veteran quarterback to make plays.

In the end, he says run-pass mix doesn't matter. The results on the scoreboard do.

''What we want is to score one more point than they score,'' Mullen said.

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Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP . AP College Football website: www.collegefootball.ap.org.

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