Chris Ault is gone from UNR, but not from football

In 10 days it will have been exactly one year since UNLV jumped to a 17-0 lead over rival UNR at Sam Boyd Stadium, settling for a 31-14 lead at halftime.

I told a colleague this was far from over. My colleague agreed. He had spent time up in the tall tumbleweeds of Northern Nevada during flannel shirt season.

He, too, had seen Chris Ault make halftime adjustments.

So after Ault made his halftime adjustments (and the refs flagged the Rebels’ Sidney Hodge for bogus pass interference) UNR won, 42-37.

It was the eighth time in a row UNR had beaten UNLV.

So at the end of the season, Chris Ault resigned for the third or fourth time. He was 66. Maybe he was just tired of beating UNLV, which had given him his coaching start back in the tearaway jersey days.

But he wasn’t tired of coaching football.

At least four NFL teams offered him a job; they, along with the rest of the civilized world and selected tattoo artists, had seen the Kaepernick kid become a star in the Bay Area. The Kaepernick kid had played quarterback for Ault in college, running an offense that Ault had drawn up on a cocktail napkin.

One of the teams that offered Ault a job was the Green Bay Packers. The Packers mostly wanted Ault to show them how to contain the Pistol offense, because the Packers lost to the 49ers 45-31 in the playoffs, and they did not contain the Kaepernick kid very well.

The Kaepernick kid rushed for 181 yards. That was a record for an NFL quarterback.

The Packers have Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, and he’s pretty good, too. But Aaron Rodgers ain’t runnin’ no Pistol. And so Chris Ault did a discount double check. He accepted Andy Reid’s offer with Kansas City, because the Chiefs had signed the guy the Kaepernick kid had beaten out in San Francisco.

Chris Ault thought Alex Smith was tailor-made for the Pistol and for generally getting outside the passing pocket like the college QBs do — like Smith did at Utah when he helped Urban Meyer land the Florida job.

And so now the Chiefs are 4-0.

The Chiefs. 4-0.

Last season the Chiefs were 2-14.

And probably the only reason Chris Ault isn’t being widely hailed as some sort of football savant is because his official title with the Chiefs is consultant.

As consultant, he isn’t required to go to all the games and wear a Chiefs cap or a Chiefs hoodie up in the coaches booth or down on the sidelines. So Ault’s not conspicuous. And so the six or seven guys sitting behind the desk for the pregame show don’t talk about his contributions that much.

But after the Chiefs went to 3-0 on Thursday night, Peter King of Sports Illustrated named Chris Ault coach of the week in the NFL. King said you could see Ault’s effect on both offense and defense, that Alex Smith had lined up in the Pistol eight times during a 26-16 win over the Eagles.

King also alluded to the Chiefs keeping Ault’s benefactions on the down-low.

“Ault’s job is shrouded in mystery,” King wrote, speculating the reason might be that the Chiefs travel to Washington in December, and Ault and the Redskins’ Kyle Shanahan had skull sessions about the Pistol before Ault accepted the job with Kansas City.

Maybe. But when he was coaching college ball amid the tall tumbleweeds, Ault was not one to toot his own horn. That doesn’t mean he didn’t have an ego. I’m sure he liked it when others tooted for him.

But Chris Ault pretty much was always an international man of mystery, especially when you wanted to get him on the phone.

As far as anybody knows, Ault has done only one interview since trading in his college coaching cap for an NFL cloak and dagger. On Sept. 4, he told Chris Murray of the Reno Gazette-Journal that he has been all over the country chatting to football people about the Pistol, including football people at Clemson, Oklahoma and Notre Dame.

He went to training camp with the Chiefs in St. Joseph, Mo., and reports daily to Brad Childress, Kansas City’s spread game coordinator. He has a one-year deal with the Chiefs that requires him to make only two or three trips to Arrowhead Stadium.

“I’ve traveled an awful lot,” Ault told the Reno newspaperman. “The one thing I did learn — and we didn’t utilize it correctly here; we didn’t expose it enough — was how much people appreciate the Pistol offense.

“I didn’t realize the impact it made nationally. We knew people visited us and copied it, but I didn’t realize the impact. When I went to these other schools, they were really excited about this thing. It was nice to see that what we did at Nevada with the (Colin) Kaepernicks and (Cody) Fajardos was so well received.”

Up there in Reno, up amid the tall tumbleweeds and the flannel shirts, Chris Ault also is helping coach his grandson’s Pop Warner team. I heard he doesn’t say a whole lot, unless halftime adjustments are called for.

Las Vegas Review-Journal sports columnist Ron Kantowski can be reached at rkantowski@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0352. Follow him on Twitter: @ronkantowski

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