- Associated Press - Friday, September 5, 2014

College football coaches are masters at finding fault with even the most dominant victories.

Mississippi State’s Dan Mullen is no exception.

The Bulldogs’ season-opener went almost flawlessly during a 49-0 victory over Southern Mississippi, but Mullen still cited several areas of improvement he wants to see when Mississippi State (1-0) hosts Alabama-Birmingham (1-0) on Saturday.

Among the most important: Better efficiency on offense.

Mississippi State scored plenty of points last weekend, but surprisingly struggled when given good field position. The Bulldogs scored zero points on three drives that started on Southern Miss’ side of the field - including one that began just four yards from the end zone.

“That’s not good, and it can’t happen,” Mullen said. “When you get the ball in good field position, you have to take advantage of that.”

UAB is in its first season under coach Bill Clark and had an encouraging opener with a dominant 48-10 victory over Troy. The Blazers rushed for 338 yards.

Clark said facing Mississippi State will be a much bigger challenge. He called the Bulldogs “monstrously big” on the offensive side of the ball.

“They have a chance to win the SEC this year,” Clark said. “This is going to be a good test for us. They are as good as advertised as far as what I see.”

Mullen said preparing for UAB is difficult since there’s not much game tape to study. He was impressed with Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson, who combined for 285 of UAB’s 338 rushing yards against Troy.

“They run the ball very well and that helps you play defense because you’re flipping field position, you’re controlling the tempo of the game and you’re wearing people down,” Mullen said.


Things to watch when Mississippi State hosts UAB on Saturday:

FINE-TUNING THE OFFENSE: Mississippi State did a lot of good things in last week’s 49-0 victory over Southern Mississippi, but coach Dan Mullen said there’s still plenty room for improvement. Mullen is especially hopeful that the Bulldogs will be more efficient on offense, taking advantage of good field position when the defense creates turnovers.

KEEPING DAK HEALTHY: MSU quarterback Dak Prescott had a big game in the opener, throwing for 284 yards and four touchdowns. The good day through the air meant he didn’t need to run as much - which could go a long way toward keeping the junior healthy. He had just eight rushing attempts for 23 yards against Southern Mississippi after running for more than 800 yards last season.

INTRODUCING BILL CLARK: UAB had a good start to the Bill Clark era last weekend, winning 48-10 over Troy and gaining 338 rushing yards in the process. The 46-year-old Clark has had a quick rise through the coaching ranks after being a successful high school coach, spending one winning year at FCS-level Jacksonville State before making the jump to UAB.

UAB’S TWO BIG RBs: UAB’s season-opening win was due in large part to Jordan Howard and D.J. Vinson, who combined to run for 285 yards against Troy. The 6-foot-1, 228-pound Howard was especially impressive, averaging 9.4 yards per carry and scoring two touchdowns.

AN ENCORE FOR PRESTON: Mississippi State’s Preston Smith was named the SEC’s defensive lineman of the week after the Southern Mississippi game thanks to a versatile performance that included an interception and a blocked field goal. Now he’s hoping to get in the backfield with more consistent and put some pressure on UAB quarterback Cody Clements.


Follow David Brandt on Twitter: www.twitter.com/davidbrandtAP

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