STARKVILLE — The last three games between the Mississippi State and Texas A&M football teams have been high-scoring affairs.
They might even be described as shootouts. Last season in Starkville, the Bulldogs won 48-31. In 2013 in College Station, Texas, the Aggies claimed a 51-41 victory. A year earlier, Johnny Manziel led Texas A&M to a 38-13 win in Starkville — the most lopsided game since the Aggies joined the Southeastern Conference a little more than four years ago.
A bunch of points could be scored again when the teams meet at 6:30 p.m. Saturday (SEC Network) in College Station, Texas.
MSU seventh-year coach Dan Mullen said he doesn’t care how many points are scored as long as his team wins.
No. 21 MSU (3-1, 1-1) is averaging 33 points this season, but it has shown it can score when it needs to. Two weeks ago, MSU defeated Northwestern State 62-13. Last week, it edged Auburn 17-9.
Senior quarterback Dak Prescott is 95 of 142 for 1,069 yards and seven touchdowns. He has thrown a school-record 191-straight passes without an interception, a streak that spans 17 quarters dating back to last season. That streak is the longest in the nation, and sixth-longest in SEC history.
“I go into every game wanting to put up 40 or 50 points,” Prescott said. “That means we had a great day, everybody was doing the right thing on offense.”
The Haughton, Louisiana, native feels confident in his offense if the Bulldogs get in a shootout with the Aggies. MSU won a couple of shootouts last season, so there is some experience for Prescott and the offense to rely on.
No. 14 Texas A&M (4-0, 1-0), which beat Arkansas 28-21 in overtime Saturday in Arlington, Texas, is 18th in the country in scoring (41.5 points per game). Texas A&M has run the ball 154 times this season, but it has only gained 746 yards. The Aggies have thrown for 1,140 yards thanks to sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen, who is 64 of 98 for 952 yards and 11 touchdowns (two interceptions). He is averaging 238 yards a game.
Fourteen Aggies have made a catch this season. Freshman Christian Kirk leads the team with 24 catches for 442 yards and four touchdowns.
“They’re a good, high-tempo offense,” MSU junior linebacker Richie Brown said. “They like the throw the ball and they’re pretty good at it. They do a lot of the things that normal spread teams do.”
MSU has allowed only 14.8 points per game this season and has surrendered one touchdown in the last nine quarters. That touchdown was by Northwestern State. The Aggies are allowing 22 points a game. Nevada has scored the most (27).
MSU is allowing 178.8 yards rushing and 170.2 yards passing per game. Last week, MSU allowed 188 yards passing. Will Redmond led the defense with an interception.
The passing games could provide the fireworks, but the Bulldog defense already has made the transition in practice to focus on the passing game more.
“I think our linebackers are helping out the DBs (defensive backs) more,” Brown said. “We’re trying to make sure we help them out and take some pressure off them, that way they’re not in the psychiatric ward at the end of the season or rehab.”
Mullen would like to be balanced on offense, but MSU ran the ball 21 times for 56 yards and threw it 41 times for 270 yards and two touchdowns. As a team, the Bulldogs have 112 carries for 579 yards. MSU is averaging just under 145 yards rushing per game, but the Bulldogs haven’t topped the century mark in either of their SEC games.
Mullen said he isn’t worried about the lack of balance. He said stats can get skewed in the early part of a season.
“We’re going to do what we need to do to win,” Mullen said. “A lot of people are still planning to stop the run first.”
n In related news, the SEC announced Monday that MSU’s game against Troy on Saturday, Oct. 10, will be played at 3 p.m. The SEC Network will broadcast the game live. … The league also announced junior linebacker Richie Brown was named SEC Defensive Player of the Week. The honor is the first weekly honor for MSU this season, and MSU’s first defensive weekly accolade since Brown earned the same honor last October following three interceptions against Texas A&M. The Long Beach native had a career-highs 13 tackles, three tackles for loss, and two sacks. Brown’s 12 solo tackles tied for the most by an SEC player in a conference game this year. The junior ranks fourth in the league with 39 tackles entering this week’s game. The 39 tackles are the most by a Bulldog since Mario Haggan ha 56 in 2002 before embarking on a 10-year NFL career in 2003.
Follow Dispatch sports writer Ben Wait on Twitter @bcwait
Ben Wait reports on Mississippi State University sports for The Dispatch.