Nevada notebook: Wolf Pack offense still hot as its pistol _lowres

Advocate staff photo by MATTHEW HINTON -- Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo hands off to running back Don Jackson on Thursday during practice for the New Orleans Bowl.

The Boston Red Sox have the Green Monster, Boise State has its Smurf turf and the University of Nevada has the Pistol offense.

“It’s given us an identity in recruiting,” Nevada coach Brian Polian said. “We’ve been able to recruit good quarterbacks that want to play in the system, because they know they’ll be productive in it.”

The Pistol offense, which was created in 2005 by former Nevada coach Chris Ault, is designed to put the quarterback in a typical shotgun formation, but the running back lines up 2-3 yards behind the quarterback instead of standing directly next to the signal-caller on either side.

This makes the offense more unpredictable, because it gives them the option of running to the right or left based on what the defense is showing.

“The defense can’t set their strength, because the running back can go right or left,” Nevada quarterback Cody Fajardo said. “When the running back’s next to you, he can really only go one way.”

Fajardo has had a lot of success with the Pistol and he said Nevada’s unique style of offense was one of the main reasons he decided to play in Reno. He viewed himself as a quarterback who can make plays with his arm and legs, and he thought the Pistol offense would allow him to display that.

During his four seasons at Nevada, Fajardo has amassed 9,535 passing yards, 3,433 rushing yards and 101 total touchdowns.

“The Pistol offense does a lot for me, as a quarterback, to help you put up numbers running and throwing the ball,” Fajardo said. “I feel like running the ball is one of my strengths, so that intrigued me.”

While most coaches come into new situations and try to force their identity on the team, when Polian took the job to be Nevada’s coach in 2013, he knew the Pistol wasn’t going anywhere.

“It would’ve been silly to get away from it,” Polian said. “When we got there, the offense had been tremendously productive.

“If it’s not broke, why fix it?”

Inexperience

While Nevada (7-5) brings one of the most experienced quarterbacks in the nation into Saturday’s R+L Carriers New Orleans Bowl against the University of Louisiana-Lafayette (8-4), Nevada still has one of the youngest rosters in the FBS.

The Wolf Pack lists 21 different players on its two-deep depth chart that are either classified as freshmen or sophomores, and five of those players are listed as starters. On the other hand, the Ragin’ Cajuns list only 15 freshmen or sophomores amongst their depth chart and four of them are starters.

With the Wolf Pack depending so much on young players throughout the season, they found themselves struggling in close games, partially due to lack of experience.

“Listen, it’s hard for these guys to go into stressful situations that they’ve never been in and expect them to always play their best,” Polian said. “Our young guys have played a ton and I think going through those experiences helps prepare them for Saturday.”

Four of Nevada’s five losses this season have come in games decided by one score or less.

Early Kickoff

Many folks in Reno, Nevada, are still in bed around 8 a.m. on a Saturday morning.

If they aren’t up by that time this Saturday, they will be missing the kickoff for the New Orleans Bowl.

While Polian doesn’t believe the early kickoff will affect his team’s play, he does think it was “karma” that got his team playing in such an early bowl game.

“We’ve had 7 p.m. kickoffs for 10 of our 12 games this season,” Polian said. “My poor parents can never stay awake past the end of our games, because they’re always so late. I guarantee they’ll be up for the entire game this time.”