Losing the pistol offense is not one of them.
Head coach and resident Dr. Frankenstein of the pistol, Chris Ault, might be gone, having announced his retirement last Friday. Offensive coordinator and quarterback coach Nick Rolovich might be gone, having taken the same job with the Temple Owls.
The pistol, though, isn’t going anywhere.
“It’s here to stay,” Ault said last Friday.
Contrary to public belief, the pistol does not belong to Ault. He can’t just pack it up in a cardboard box when he cleans out his office at Cashell Fieldhouse and take it home. And it’s not like the pistol is a loyal hunting dog that will follow Ault out of Cashell, never to be seen on campus again.
The pistol, after all, now belongs to the world.
“I’m proud to say that our offense has broadened the landscape of college football and now has broadened the landscape of the NFL,” Ault said.
Robert Griffin III and the Washington Redskins run it. Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers run it. Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks. And, of course, Colin Kaepernick, the Babe Ruth of the pistol, runs it with the San Francisco 49ers.
“With Kap doing what he’s doing the interest has increased dramatically,” Ault said.
And it’s only gett8ng started. Wait until someone — Kaepernick, for example — wins a Super Bowl with it. That is going to happen soon. Very soon.
The pistol belongs to the world because, well, Ault didn’t waste any time telling the world of what he created. It doesn’t take long for coaches to notice what other coaches are doing. Ault’s phone started ringing almost as soon as Jeff Rowe ran the first pistol play in a game in 2005.
“It’s a very prideful thing,” Ault said.
The pistol, understandably, is like one of Ault’s children. It’s a beneficiary in Ault’s will right behind (we assume behind) wife Kathy, son Chris Jr. and daughters Amy and Lisa. There’s a spot at the Ault family Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner table for the pistol.
“It’s here at the University of Nevada,” Ault said. “That’s where it was started. That’s where it was developed.”
And that’s where it will stay.
So, rest easy, Pack fans. The pistol isn’t going anywhere.
It doesn’t matter who the university hires to become the next head coach. Experienced, inexperienced coach. Short, fat, bald, skinny guy , it doesn’t matter. An offensive genius, a defensive guru. Makes no difference. The pack will run the pistol in 2013 and beyond.
“It’s the best offense out there, no question,” said SMU defensive coordinator Tom Mason, a former Pack linebacker and coordinator who wants to be considered for the Pack head coaching job. “That’s the offense I’d run.”
Everybody, it seems, is now running it at least part of the time. Some do it better than others because, well, a lot of them are forcing it upon quarterbacks who just aren’t equipped for it (like Tyler Lantrip in 2011). But they are doing it just the same. Don’t be shocked if wishbone crazy teams like Air Force and New Mexico state start running more pistol than wishbone in the near future. The wishbone after all, is the perfect fit for the pistol.
So any fears that you might have of the Pack abandoning the pistol, well, it’s just not going to happen.
It can’t happen. It would be unthinkable if, come opening day in 2013, 90 per cent of the schools in the nation are running the pistol at least part-time and the Pack is part of that uninformed, unfortunate 1 per cent.
The Pack administration can’t be as dumb as Hawaii, could it? Hawaii ran the run-and-shoot for more than a decade and had great success. They even went to a BCS bowl one year. The run-and-shoot was their identity. It was Hawaii football as much as the pistol is Pack football.
So what does Hawaii do this year? They hire 66-year-old Norm Chow — a guy Ault tried to teach the pistol to a few years back — and Chow abandoned the run-and-shoot faster than you can say June Jones. The result? Hawaii no longer has an identity but it does have a 3-9 record.
The past week or so has been difficult on Pack fans. Many of them, we assume, had been startled out of bed at 3 a.m. because of nightmares that had the Pack lined up in the I-formation or the Pro Set and with a running game void of the pistol’s misdirection plays and zone blocking schemes. And those Pack fans would call in sick the next day after dreaming of the Pack lined up in the shotgun with its silly, out-dated east-west running.
Talk about walking up in a silver and blue cold sweat.
Relax. That’s not going to happen. If it does, well, the university needs to find a new president and each member of that vastly overpaid coaching search committee had better never step onto Nevada soil again for fear of taking a cannon ball in the chest from John C. Fremont’s gift to the Silver State.
So there’s really nothing to worry about.
Lake Tahoe hasn’t totally dried up. The Sierra mountains haven’t been leveled to build a dozen more casinos and the arch doesn’t have a huge Wal-Mart ad draped over it. And the pistol is still the staple of Pack football.
You don’t, after all, even apply for the job of Nevada head coach without first kneeling and praying at Ault’s pistol altar.
The Ten Commandments of the University of Nevada head football coach are:
1. Thou shalt always run the pistol offense.
2. Thou shalt always make sure there are at least four quarterbacks on the roster who can run the pistol offense.
3. Thou shalt never covet the run-and-shoot, the wishbone, the shotgun, the spread, the Pro Set, the I formation, the T formation or anything June Jones or Mike Leach invents. A little Wing T is OK in small doses but that’s it.
4. Thou shalt not take Chris Ault’s name in vain (this goes for any future and present athletic directors and presidents, too).
5-10. See commandments 1 through 4.
“This offense saved this football program,” Ault told me about a few years ago. “We would be in a lot of trouble without it.”
Those words should never be forgotten down on north Virginia Street.
The pistol allows a mid-major program like Nevada to compete with schools that toss five-star recruits back into the pond. That’s the same reason why Ault ran the Wing-T for the first two decades of his coaching career. You don’t need amazing athletes. All you need is a mobile, smart, tough quarterback, a mobile, smart, tough offensive line, a mobile, smart, tough running back and some mobile, smart, tough wide receivers and tight ends.
Mobile, smart and tough can be found anywhere. You just have to know what you are looking for. The reason Ault is in the Hall of Fame is because he always knew what he was looking for.
And when you do get lucky and uncover an amazing athlete — a guy who should have had five stars but only had two or three because, well, high school recruiting is usually performed by morons — well, the pistol is unstoppable. See Colin Kaepernick, vintage 2007-10.
Ault, to be sure, is the Godfather of the Pistol and always will be. But he’s certainly not the only coach who can teach it. There are a couple guys out there — like former Wolf Pack offensive coordinator Chris Klenakis and current Washington State running backs coach Jim Mastro — who have already earned their masters in the pistol. They helped Ault put it together as Pack assistants in 2005 and have built amazing careers based on it.
But any defensive coordinator (like Mason) who has ever had to defend it can teach it also. Former Pack defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter became the Fresno State Bulldogs head coach this past season, put in the pistol and had great success.
The pistol is not a secret anymore. Anyone with an internet connection can study it. Ault has spent the past seven off-seasons teaching it to every coaching staff who could afford a plane ticket to Reno (like UCLA and Stanford to name but two) to study at his feet.
Heck, we’re not positive about this, but there might even be a better than 50-50 chance Mr. Pistol would even teach the new Wolf Pack head coach the pistol, if asked.
Nicely. Politely. With proper respect. Why wouldn’t he? He’s taught every other staff lately.
And even if Ault is busy on his pistol tour this spring and summer, there’s always quarterback Cody Fajardo around to teach the new coach. Fajardo, right now, is the Pack’s resident pistol expert. He could student teach the subject. At the very least Fajardo should be on the search committee to find the new head coach.
The Pack, actually, should hire Fajardo as the new offensive coordinator. The pistol has revolutionized college football the past eight seasons. Why not revolutionize the sport even further by having the first player-coach?
Fajardo, by the way, is the best thing Ault has left the new head coach by far. Fajardo, after all, runs the pistol better than anyone in the country not named Kaepernick.
“The best thing about the pistol,” said Klenakis, who coached the offensive line at Arkansas the last three years, “is that you can do so many things off it. You can keep adding things. We married a great passing scheme here at Arkansas with the downhill running of the pistol. You can do whatever you want.”
“We’ve combined a lot of the run-and-shoot passing game with it,” said Mason, who has had to deal with June Jones and his SMU run-and-shoot circus in recent years.
The pistol has devoured Wolf Pack football. It is Wolf Pack football. If not for the world of political correctness, you can bet Alphie would be running around Mackay Stadium these days carrying a silver and blue pistol in a holster.
That’s how much the pistol means to Pack football.
“That’s an influence that is very special when you can do something in your career that will be lasting,” Ault said in his farewell address.
The pistol will outlast anything and everything Ault did in his career. Conference titles. Bowl games. Playoff games. The spots in the College Football, Wolf Pack, Pacific High in San Bernardino, Calif., and yes, even the UNLV — Hall of Fame.
It all takes a back seat to the pistol.
And it’s not going anywhere.