Nevada runs the pistol offense, which can create a multitude of problems for Arizona’s defense this Saturday. Mandatory Credit: Soobum Im-USA TODAY Sports[/caption]When Arizona faces Nevada this Saturday in the New Mexico Bowl, they will see a type of offense they have not faced all year: the pistol offense. So, you naturally ask, what is the pistol offense?
Interestingly enough, the pistol offense was created in 2004 by Chris Ault, the head coach of Nevada, as a creative spin off of the read-option (which Arizona uses). The Wildcats, therefore, will be tested by the very same coach and team that sparked the pistol offense craze that many teams now employ. Needless to say, Nevada is pretty good at it.
Most shotgun-type offenses put the quarterback at about 6-8 yards behind the center so that he can read the defense and have time to make decisions once the ball is snapped; in a read option offense, the runningback will often stand directly to the quarterback’s left or right side. In the pistol offense, however, the quarterback stands roughly 3-4 yards behind the center, and the runningback stands 3-4 yards directly behind the quarterback. This not only still gives the quarterback space to read what the defense is doing, but because the runningback is directly behind the quarterback, also creates much ambiguity regarding which direction the offense will go. The pistol is usually a run first, pass second offense.
Like any other offense, the pistol also has variations to it. For example, in addition to having a runningback stand directly behind the quarterback, the pistol may also have a runningback directly to either side of the quarterback, or in some instances, both sides. Obviously, the pistol also plays around with different uses and numbers of tight ends and wide receivers.
The quarterback is commonly not only a good passer but a good runner as well, presenting a dual threat and creating a situation where the defense has to worry about at least two solid rushers behind the line of scrimmage. Because the snap occurs more quickly than in a traditional shotgun formation, this can also create problems with the defense in timing. In addition to being effective at draws, counters, options and other traditional rushing plays, the pistol also works well in play action passing if the rushing game is going well. Again, however, because the snap occurs more quickly, defenses will have the opportunity to recognize the play sooner as well.