Pistol offense has the chance to make history
November 11, 2008
RENO ” Stats don’t mean a whole lot to Nevada football coach Chris Ault, his assistants or his players. All that matters at the end of the day is that a win has been chalked up.
Those feelings aside, Nevada’s pistol offense is zeroing in on an accomplishment that only a couple other teams in NCAA history have accomplished.
The Wolf Pack, who host San Jose Saturday at 1 p.m., is attempting to become one of the few teams in NCAA history to average 300 or more yards per game on the ground and 200 or more yards through the air.
According to Chad Hartley, Nevada’s football spokesman, the only two schools that have reached that milestone are the 1968 Houston Cougars and the 1973 Arizona State Sun Devils.
Currently, Nevada averages a nation-leading 324 yards on the ground per game and 200 yards passing, and ranks fifth overall this year at 524.1 per game. Not bad for an offense that was only coined in 2005.
When Ault was playing the mad inventor, he obviously thought the Pack would have success otherwise the offense would never have been unveiled.
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“I thought we could be good, but I didn’t know how good,” said Ault. “I thought it fit our personnel well and what we wanted to do offensively. The most important thing is that the system you run fits.
“We’ve been able to take it and expand every year. Last year it was the deep ball and this year it was the read option. There’s still some stufff that we haven’t put in.”
The pistol offense has become all the rage in college and high school football around the country.
“I was watching Boise State, and they snapped it twice (in that formation),” Ault said. “Last summer and spring, we spoke to a lot of places talking about the offense. I don’t think people in Reno understand. I can’t tell you how many high schools in California are running some variation of it. That’s the beauty of the offense. You can take and use parts of it.”
Chris Klenakis, Nevada’s offensive line coach and offensive coordinator, isn’t surprised by the success of the new offense.
“I knew we could have success and move the ball,” Klenakis said. “We’ve averaged 500 yards a game before (mainly by passing), we’re just moving the ball in a different way now compared to before. If that’s what it takes, fine. The ultimate goal is to win the game.”
Two of the key ingredients in the offense ” running back Vai Taua and Colin Kaepernick ” have been pleasantly surprised at the amount of success that Nevada has enjoyed this year.
“I definitely didn’t see this much success (when it started),” said Taua, who is coming off a 263-yard rushing effort and has already eclipsed the 1,000-yard mark with three games remaining. “I definitely saw our team having a bunch of playmakers that can do a bunch of things.
“We have a lot of guys sitting on the bench that can do the same things as the guys on the field. Greg Hall (offensive lineman) gets hurt and Kenny Ackerman steps up and we don’t lose a step.”
The success of the rushing game also has been what’s impressed Kaepernick.
“I didn’t know we’d be rushing the ball like we have been,” said Kaepernick, who has praised the work of offensive linemen Dominic Green, Brad Eskew, Ackerman, John Bender, Mike Gallett and Alonzo Durham.
The big reason why this pistol offense has thrived is Kaepernick’s ability to execute the read option play.
The 6-foot-6 sophomore averages 96.7 yards rushing per game and has the ability to go the distance anytime he touches the ball. That particular play gives opposing defenses something else to worry about; to prepare for. An agile quarterback is what opposing defenses fear the most. A running quarterback can break down defenses.
“The biggest factor is the trigger man,” Ault said. “I’m confident in him running it (the option). When I put in that offense, Nick (Graziano) was the starter. We would still run it with Nick. He’s not as explosive, he’s more of a physical runner.”
Even though Nevada’s offense has thrived, Ault insists it could get better.
“The passing game is not where it should be,” said the veteran coach who is zeroing in on 200 career wins. “We’re not throwing as well as I anticipated or hoped we would.”
Ault said there were a couple of different factors, ranging from sometime poor throwing mechanics by Kaepernick to dropped passes by receivers. Nevada receivers dropped at least three passes against Fresno State.
“That stuff adds up,” Ault said.