Just when it seemed the Air Force receiving battle was working its way into a two-horse race, Jake Matkovich goes and steals the show.
Matkovich, who had largely been relegated to third-team reps behind Marcus Bennett and Geraud Sanders, made the play of the day in a scrimmage Saturday. The 6-foot-5 junior leapt over first-team cornerback Robert Bullard to haul in a one-handed pass about 35 yards downfield.
“I kind of jumped a little early, kind of stuck my hand out there and came down with it,” Matkovich said.
Matkovich’s morning also included a diving catch and at least one block on the edge that sprang the ball carrier to the sideline for a nice gain.
But the one-handed grab was the highlight.
“I think he was a little bit discouraged with the way he played in spring,” receivers coach Taylor Stubblefield said. “So, to see him do that today was very good for him, very good for our group. You can tell that our group was excited to see him make that play. I know I was excited. I think it builds confidence in him and the rest of us to know he can do that on a consistent basis.”
Replacing Jalen Robinette at the wide receiver spot has been complicated not only because he was a once-in-a-generation talent, but because the separation of those vying to replace him hasn't been found in their overall production as much as their strengths.
Stubblefield describes Bennett, a junior, as the “best true, polished receiver” of the bunch. He said Sanders, a sophomore, brings the most exciting “big play ability.” Matkovich, a junior, along with senior Cody Bronkar, can go up and get a contested ball “and probably come away with it 8 out of 10 times.”
These have been the descriptions most frequently offered of the competing receivers, though offensive coordinator Mike Thiessen cautioned against over-generalizing their particular skill sets.
“They all can do them all,” he said.
So, how do the Falcons separate them? Performance in scrimmages is one way, and Matkovich certainly helped himself Saturday. But coach Troy Calhoun and Stubblefield said the biggest factor will be consistency throughout the month.
“You look forward to being able to develop and work with those guys – Geraud, Marcus and Jake,” Calhoun said. “Each of the three bring something to help us and each has ability. We’ve got to continue to ascend. Our guys understand that and they want to.”