No more Chris Ault at Nevada, but pistol offense remains

Wolf Pack switch coaches, but not philosophies in the post-Chris Ault era.

ccripe@idahostatesman.comOctober 16, 2013 

The sideline looks different.

The on-field product doesn’t.

The Nevada Wolf Pack will visit Bronco Stadium on Saturday under the direction of coach Brian Polian.

The pistol-based offense created by Hall of Fame coach Chris Ault remains.

As does the program's Achilles’ heel — defense.

Players say the transition from Ault, who retired at the end of last season, to Polian, a first-time head coach, has been smooth. The team is 3-3 overall and 2-1 in the Mountain West.

“Coach Polian did a great job with the transition,” senior offensive tackle Joel Bitonio said. “He always asked for our input, always asked for what we wanted, what we thought about things. And he has great mentors. He was at great institutions. I think it’s worked out great.”

Polian retained three of Ault’s assistants, including offensive coordinator Nick Rolovich.

The offense hasn’t been as productive — it averages 435.2 yards per game, 30.5 points per game and 181.8 rushing yards per game — but there are two good reasons for that. The Wolf Pack played two current Top 10 teams on the road, UCLA and Florida State, and two games without starting quarterback Cody Fajardo.

“It just made sense to keep the offense,” Polian said. “Continuity is a good thing. The offense had been very productive. We were personneled for it. Players believed in it. So I wasn’t going to change simply for the sake of change. And while we have added some wrinkles to it and certainly expanded the passing game a little bit, I do believe the core beliefs of the offense are intact, and a lot of the core looks. We want to run the ball better, and we’re working hard to do that.”

The defense, as it did under Ault, has faltered. The Wolf Pack, who installed the cover-two defense made famous by Monte Kiffin this year, have allowed at least 40 points four times this season and rank 121st in rushing defense at 267.2 yards per game.

“We need people to simply do their jobs,” Polian said. “If we could get all 11 guys doing their job to the best of their ability, the system will work and we’ll be just fine. … Guys are trying to make plays, and sometimes they get outside the framework of the defense to do it and we get exposed.”

The uneven results this season led Polian to point out some flaws in Ault’s program last week. Among them: a scholarship imbalance weighted toward the offense and a string of washouts that left the Pack with fewer than 80 scholarship players this year (the max is 85).

“There is a myth out there that I inherited a well-oiled machine,” he told boosters, according to the Reno Gazette-Journal. “And that is a myth, because there were issues with this program when I arrived.”

He’s trying to address them by running the program more like Boise State’s Chris Petersen than Ault, who called the offensive plays.

“He’s more of a general manager type of guy,” Bitonio said, “where Coach Ault was more hands on with the offense.”

Chadd Cripe: 377-6398, Twitter: @IDS_BroncoBeat

Idaho Statesman is pleased to provide this opportunity to share information, experiences and observations about what's in the news. Some of the comments may be reprinted elsewhere in the site or in the newspaper. We encourage lively, open debate on the issues of the day, and ask that you refrain from profanity, hate speech, personal comments and remarks that are off point. Thank you for taking the time to offer your thoughts.

Commenting FAQs | Terms of Service