There can only be one leader of the Pack |

There can only be one leader of the Pack

Steve Yingling

Although he is 20 years younger than Joe Paterno, Chris Ault has a lot in common with the legendary Penn State football coach.

There isn’t life after college football. Retiring isn’t an option.

For them, there is only one place to call home.

Both coaches realize that the difference between success and failure is minute and don’t allow public perception to sway their direction.

Where Ault and Paterno’s careers really parallel, though, is knowing how to win when everyone outside of their immediate families has given up on them.

What Ault and his Nevada Wolf Pack accomplished on Saturday was sports in its purest form and probably the most addictive side of coaching – winning a game you can’t possibly win.

Recommended Stories For You

“You never know what’s gonna happen. That’s why you play the game,” Ault said in a postgame press conference following the Pack’s improbable 38-35 upset of the 16th-ranked Fresno State Bulldogs.

How big of an upset was it?

Consider that the Pack was a 161Ú2-point underdog at their beloved Mackay Stadium.

There weren’t enough fans in Reno convinced that the Pack would make a game of it. Attendance was 10,000 below a sellout.

Nevada’s best victory prior to Saturday was against Louisiana Tech.

The Pack had lost to Fresno State by 37 points last year.

A week earlier, Fresno State had led No. 1-ranked USC late in the fourth quarter in Los Angeles before losing 50-42.

The last time a team with such a high profile came to Mackay – Washington State – the Pack imploded in a 55-21 debacle.

But by the end of the first quarter on a chilly night in Reno, the Pack had already shredded that paper trail of unimportant facts.

The Pack took the Bulldogs for what they were – 11 players lined up across from them who coveted the same prize: a Western Athletic Conference championship.

“That’s one of the greatest efforts from a team I’ve ever been associated with,” Ault said. “Our kids played as hard as they possibly could and gave it everything they had.”

The Pack never lost sight of beating Fresno State, even after the Bulldogs rallied to take a brief three-point lead in the fourth quarter.

“The focus was the most important thing. It energized us. We never lost focus and the energy came,” Ault said. “I just believe you gain energy in a game that you start playing better and better.”

One of Fresno State’s best players – Garrett McIntyre – respected the Pack’s effort afterward.

“They are a good football team. There is no surprise,” McIntyre said.

A 1-2 start and lopsided defeats to WSU and Colorado State created disinterest in the program, but Ault won them back on Saturday night.

“After the Washington State game, we were gonna talk about one game at a time because we were really a poor football team at that time,” he said. “Our whole goal is a winning season and after a winning season, a WAC championship and then, of course, a bowl game. All those things coaches set up, but I think you have to be conscious of what you’re trying to win. One thing we did and my staff did a really good job of was keeping our focus each week.”

The Pack listened to Ault and his staff so well that they celebrated like the coach from a different era. I could have been mistaken but as I walked past the closed Pack locker room doors, the players were singing, “Oh when the Pack comes marching in.”

However corny it sounded, it could have been a No. 1 hit single in Reno this week.

Not long ago, I was one of many who doubted that Ault would ever be able to the beat the Fresno States and Boise States. His third tour of duty at Nevada is no joke.

He deserves to be the coach at Nevada. Besides, there is only one better candidate for his position and he resides in Happy Valley.

– Tribune Sports Editor Steve

Yingling can be reached at (530) 542-8010 or