Texas A&M looking to extend nation’s longest nonconference win streak
Kevin Sumlin had astounding success in his first season as Texas A&M coach thanks to the Heisman Trophy-winning campaign of Johnny Manziel.
Brian Polian played a role in that effort and parlayed it into his first head coaching job at Nevada.
Sumlin’s team looks to extend the longest nonconference winning streak in the nation to 19 when it hosts the under-fire Polian and Nevada on Saturday.
When Sumlin took over at Texas A&M (2-0) in 2012, it was during the school’s first SEC season. Manziel threw for 26 touchdowns and ran for 21 more as the Aggies went 11-2 and won the Cotton Bowl.
Polian coached special teams and tight ends for that team after coming over from Stanford. He was hired the next season by Nevada.
"The more than you’re in this business, you start playing guys that are your friends and that’s never easy, no matter what happens," Sumlin said.
Polian apparently texted Sumlin on Sunday with some friendly advice.
"We hadn’t really talked and he said it himself, he said, ‘I’ll huddle if you’ll huddle,’" Sumlin joked. "And I said we’ll huddle on kickoffs and punts and I don’t think there was much of a response after that."
The Wolf Pack coach lost his temper during last Saturday’s 44-20 home loss to then-No. 22 Arizona. Nevada (1-1) was whistled for nine penalties for 105 yards, including two unsportsmanlike calls against Polian – who was fined $10,000 by his school Tuesday.
"I apologized to the team. I let them team down, no doubt about that," he said. "Clearly, I’ve earned myself a little bit of a rep, and that is nobody’s fault but mine."
In addition to the fine, Nevada will place an administration official on the sidelines during games and Polian will be subject to additional reporting requirements to athletic director Doug Knuth.
The 40-year-old Polian is 12-15 at Nevada as the seventh-youngest FBS coach.
"The easy story right now is that I am a hothead and all that stuff, and I guess I can understand that," he said. "I am incredibly passionate about this job. I am incredibly passionate about our young people."
Polian faces a tough task after the Wolf Pack fell to 4-20 against ranked opponents last weekend.
Texas A&M routed then-No. 15 Arizona State 38-17 in its first game and rolled past Ball State 56-23 in its home opener last Saturday. The Aggies built a 49-3 lead at halftime, as Kyle Allen threw for 126 yards and three touchdowns in the first half and backup Kyler Murray also got in before the break and threw for his first career score.
The Cardinals were limited to seven yards on their first four drives.
"What we’re doing is trying to set a standard for play on both sides," Sumlin said. "We were almost perfect on third down, if not perfect on third down, in the first half offensively and perfect on third down defensively and we played a lot of different people."
Christian Kirk had a 56-yard punt return that set up A&M’s first score in the second quarter, one week after he ran one back 79 yards for a touchdown. He had a 10-yard TD catch from Murray last weekend.
"I think you guys can see now that we have a pretty special playmaker in Christian Kirk," Allen said. "He’s just a sparkplug."
Kirk figures to face a challenge against Wolf Pack punter Alex Boy, an all-Mountain West Conference preseason selection. Boy punted a career-high eight times last weekend, with three going at least 50 yards including a career-best 63-yarder.
Aggies defensive tackle Zaycoven Henderson and linebacker A.J. Hilliard will make their season debuts after two-game suspensions for violating athletic department rules.
Nevada’s top rusher is Don Jackson, who has 215 yards and two scores. Tyler Stewart is averaging 161.0 yards passing and 40.5 on the ground.
Texas A&M won the lone previous meeting with Nevada 48-18 in 1950. A similar score is expected this weekend, though Sumlin did his best to dismiss talk of a blowout.
"I think it’s disrespectful to expect that," Sumlin said.