Oklahoma football: Pistol formation is Sooner offense's 'significant wrinkle'

OU FOOTBALL — Over the summer, Oklahoma football coaches brought in former Nevada coach Chris Ault to help implement a new offensive wrinkle. Ault, the creator of the pistol formation, spent two days in Norman helping the Sooners learn the formation and the options that come with it.
by Ryan Aber Published: September 6, 2013

After last season, Oklahoma coaches knew they wanted to make a change in the offense, regardless of who the new quarterback was going to be.

The Sooners had run the pistol formation before, but Bob Stoops thought an expanded use of the offense — with the addition of an option element — might be just what the offense needed.

So Stoops called in the inventor of the pistol — former Nevada coach Chris Ault — to help the Sooners expand their use of the formation.

Ault, who stepped down at Nevada in December, visited Norman for two days during the spring, primarily spending time with Stoops and co-offensive coordinator Josh Heupel.

“The exchange with their coaches over the two days and watching spring football and stuff, I was really impressed with what they had already installed from the pistol and whatever they were going to take away from our conversation,” Ault told The Oklahoman. “It was a lot of fun. To me, it was a two-day coaching clinic. I enjoyed being with those guys and glad to hear they've adopted a little bit of it.”

Stoops said before the season the offense wouldn't look much different from what the Sooners ran with Landry Jones behind center, but the option with the increased use of the pistol is nothing like anything OU has used since Stoops took over.

“When I said it's not gonna look much different, all our passing game, all the other stuff is all the same,” Stoops said. “That's one wrinkle that was different.

“It's a significant wrinkle.”

Using the pistol — where the quarterback lines up four yards behind the center, shorter than a traditional shotgun, with one running back directly behind him — with an option element is exactly what Ault intended when he devised the offense in 2005.

“I loved the shotgun,” Ault said. “I always enjoyed throwing it but what I did not like about the shotgun was the run game. I felt with the (running back) on the hip of the quarterback, you know your first movement would be East-West rather than North-South.”

When Ault came up with the offense, even his own coaches weren't too sure about it.

“Assistant coaches were looking at you out of one eye thinking, ‘We better get our resumes ready,” Ault said.

The success with the offense wasn't immediate — the Wolfpack lost 55-21 to Washington State in the pistol's debut — but it came quickly.


by Ryan Aber
Reporter
Ryan Aber has worked for The Oklahoman since 2006, covering high schools, the Oklahoma City RedHawks, the Oklahoma City Barons and OU football recruiting. An Oklahoma City native, Aber graduated from Northeastern State. Before joining The...
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CHRIS AULT

* Born: Nov. 8, 1946

* Head coach: Nevada (1976-1992, 1994-1995, 2004-2012).

* Record: 233-109-1

* Current job: Consultant, Kansas City Chiefs

* Notable: Creator of the pistol offense. … Was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002. … Coached current 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick at Nevada. … The field at Mackay Stadium, Nevada's home field, will be renamed after Ault prior to Nevada's home opener against UC-Davis. … Coached the Wolf Pack to bowl appearances in each of his final eight seasons. … Played quarterback at Nevada from 1965-68.

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