Nevada shoots down foes with pistol offense
RENO – In his younger years, Chris Ault-coached teams were known more for passing the football than anything else. Forty pass attempts in a game wasn’t unusual.
It was exciting football to be sure, but Ault didn’t have the success he wanted, and he knew that something needed to change.
Ault’s quest for balance ended in the formation of the pistol offense which Nevada has been running for three years and has enabled the Wolf Pack to become one of the most feared offense in the Western Athletic Conference and the nation.
“I knew that to win championships we had to run the ball better (and be more balanced),” Ault said during a conference call Monday to hype the upcoming Roady’s Humanitarian Bowl game against Maryland on Dec. 30 in Boise. “I liked the idea of the shotgun and throwing the ball out of that.
“The shotgun was more of an East-West alignment. The running back was to the left or right of the quarterback. ”
Ault didn’t want to have an East-West running team. He wanted North-South runners; bruising runners like B.J. Mitchell, Robert Hubbard, Luke Lippincott and Vai Taua who could deliver a blow on would-be tacklers.
Instead of the quarterback being seven yards behind d the center, he moved the quarterback to about four yards behind the center and put the running back behind the quarterback.
“We took our base stuff; stuff that we liked throwing and running,” Ault said. “That’s mostly what we went with in 2005. We added the zone option and different play-action opportunities.
“The quarterback gets the ball to the back deeper (in the pistol); he’s already four yards behind. There is an opportunity for the quarterback to be more involved in play-action and also to run the ball.”
The offense seems to be a natural fit for sophomore Colin Kaepernick, who passed for 2,479 yards and 19 scores, and ran for more than 1,100 yards and 16 touchdowns.
“Colin attended our summer camp and we watched him his senior year,” Ault said. “He ran the Wing-T in high school and I’m an old Wing-T guy.”
Ault was quick to point out that when he invented the offense that Nick Graziano was the starter. Graziano suffered a foot injury during the 2007 season, which caused him to miss the rest of that season and the ensuing spring practice.
“It (the offense) was definitely diverse in what it could do,” Kaepernick said. “As soon as I got here, you really understand what it is capable of doing.”
“There is a lot more you can do in it,” Taua said. “You have a lot more freedom in running the ball. You get the ball deeper. I can make a decision as soon as I touch it.”
Ault’s invention has become all the rage. Teams from high school to pro run plays derived out of the pistol offense.
“”It’s been great,” Ault said. “Two Canadian teams that were in the Grey Cup run the pistol. It’s been for us. We get inundated during the spring with calls from high school coaches and we share most of what we know.”
Even Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen is impressed.
“I hate to say it, I like what they are doing on offense,” said the Maryland coach. “It makes them very difficult to defend.”