When the Arizona Wildcats were selected to play Nevada in the New Mexico Bowl, it ensured the word "pistol" would be used in Southern Arizona more frequently than at any time since the shootout at the O.K. Corral.
That's the name of the Wolf Pack offense, and it's both dramatically different from, and similar to, the Wildcats' spread.
Here's a primer on what figures to be the most talked-about scheme in town between now and Dec. 15:
-- Where's the name come from? The quarterback takes the snap four yards from the center instead of the traditional seven-yard shotgun snap. It's a shorter 'gun -- the pistol.
-- So it's a formation or an offensive system? Both.
-- Huh? Please explain. In 2005, Nevada coach Chris Ault knew he didn't like to run out of the shotgun, which was popularized by with the explosion of the spread offense.
Ault figured that if he scooted the quarterback toward the center, the running back could line up three yards directly behind the passer, not tipping defenses which way the running play was headed.
Unlike the shotgun, the running back can take a few steps forward and pick up speed before being handed the ball.
"It's zone-schemed, and it's relatively simple," senior tackle Jeff Nady said. "Our coaches do a great job of making it as simple as possible for the offensive line."
He invented the offense and installed it for spring ball, 2005. It quickly became the best thing to happen to Reno since shrimp cocktail.
-- So it's totally different than Arizona's spread? No. The Wolf Pack runs zone read plays similar to what Rich Rodriguez invented at Glenville (W.Va.) State.
The Nevada quarterback holds the ball in front of his body and, depending on where the defensive end goes, either hands it to the running back up the middle or keeps it as a veer play
-- And this works? Yup. The Wolf Pack went from 199.5 rushing yards in 2005 to 170.2 in 2006, 214.1 in 2007, 277.8 in 2008 and then a NCAA-best 344.9 rushing yards per game in 2009.
Nevada averaged 292.2 rushing yards in 2010 and 247.5 last year.
In Reno, San Francisco 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick became the only quarterback in FBS or Division I history to pass for more than 10,000 yards and run for more than 4,000 yards.
-- How about this year? Nevada is No. 7 in the nation with 260 rushing yards per game on a total of 601 attempts. (Comparatively, Arizona is No. 16 with 230.4 yards on 508 tries).
It boasts Ka'Deem Carey's closest competition for the FBS rushing crown: Stephon Jefferson, who has averaged 141.9 rushing yards per game, 4.5 fewer than the UA sophomore.
Jefferson owns the program's single-season rushing touchdown record with 21 and is only 29 yards short of the single-season yards record of 1,732.
"He's a hard runner and he's a hard worker," Nady said. "He wants to carry the ball 40 times a game and he wants the ball in his hands.
"That's what we love about Stephon -- he's a relentless running back."
He's not Nevada's only weapon.
Quarterback Cody Fajardo has 981 rushing yards this season, about 500 more than the Wildcats' second-best rusher, quarterback Matt Scott.
"I feel very fortunate to have a quarterback like Cody," Nady said.
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OCTOBER 31, 2014
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