Indiana offense packs Chris Ault’s pistol
Chris Ault has not had enough time to watch Indiana’s offense this season.
With Nevada (9-1) ranked No. 18 in the BCS standings and in the hunt for the Western Athletic Conference championship, the Wolf Pack’s Hall of Fame coach has not seen another version of his brainchild at work.
Ault’s invention, the pistol offensive formation, has spread throughout college football since its birth in Reno, Nev., in 2005. It will be on display Saturday in Landover, Md., at FedEx Field when Indiana unveils versions of the pistol as its weapons of choice against the Nittany Lions.
The Hoosiers have operated out of the pistol formation the past two seasons under coach Bill Lynch, with senior quarterback Ben Chappell directing the Big Ten’s No. 1 passing offense.
Ault does not view the pistol formation as a gimmick.
“You betcha, it’s gonna be around for a while,” the 64-year-old coach said. “I think the pistol, the formation — Boise (State) uses it also — I think it’s widened and broadened the landscape of college football. And I see teams using it and doing a lot of different things with it, so I think it has its place in particular in the college circles. And, of course, I know some of the pro teams are using it also.”
Dozens of college teams run versions of the pistol. The Buffalo Bills and Detroit Lions also use it.
Since Nevada began running the pistol formation — in which the quarterback lines up 4 yards behind the line of scrimmage, with the tailback 3 yards directly behind him — it has finished outside the top 15 nationally in yards per game just once, in 2006. Last season, the Wolf Pack finished No. 2 in the category, and it stands No. 4 this season.
Indiana, the Big Ten’s worst rushing team, does not run the pistol as an offense, choosing instead to use the formation to get the short passing game into a rhythm.
“We don’t run the Nevada pistol, because what they do is so much geared on having a running quarterback as well, and that’s why they’re so effective,” Lynch said. “But we took a lot of ideas from it and certainly the formation, now you see it all over football. So it’s really, it can be a formation or it can be a philosophy of football. Ours is really more the formation side of it.”
Nevada runs it as an offense to get quarterback Colin Kaepernick on the move. Kaepernick has eclipsed 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in each of the past three seasons, and he is 54 rushing yards from doing it again.
In April 2009, with mobile quarterback Kellen Lewis dismissed from the team and dropback passer Chappell waiting in the wings, Hoosiers coaches visited Reno to learn more about the pistol.
“We were looking to get out of the spread exclusively, but we also wanted to keep our quarterback in the shotgun,” Lynch said.
The result has been a passing offense that improved from ninth in the Big Ten to fourth last season. Chappell leads the conference with 2,730 passing yards.
And the man who formulated the idea has watched with joy as his concept evolves across the nation.
“For me, it has been a lot of fun,” Ault said, “and watching these other people run it, you betcha, there’s a sense of pride.”
Note: Penn State freshman running back Silas Redd of Norwalk, Conn., was cited for disorderly conduct and released Monday when he was observed urinating near the Agricultural Engineering Building at 4:13 a.m., university police said. Redd, 18, has carried 57 times for 367 yards and one touchdown this season. … Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin, who threw two interceptions in the second start of his career during the 38-14 loss to Ohio State on Saturday, remains No. 1 on the team’s depth chart, released last night.