Here’s some sports trivia to the unsuspecting.
Name an offensive category in which Air Force has led the nation within the past six years?
Need a hint?
It’s not a rushing statistic for the team that consistently finishes in the nation’s top five on the ground.
There’s a Falcon on pace to do it again this year.
In 2016, Jalen Robinette led the country in yards per reception with 27.4 — easily outdistancing Pittsburgh’s Jester Weah (24.17).
Air Force’s Geraud Sanders, at 23.95 yards per catch, is leading the nation this year, with Oklahoma’s Charleston Rambo in second at 22.71.
With 20 catches for 479 yards, Sanders’ top competition may end up coming from teammate Ben Waters. Waters is averaging 32.4 yards per catch, but with just nine receptions falls short of the NCAA threshold of two catches per game to qualify.
“I think it is pretty crazy,” Sanders said of the general zaniness of this run-heavy offense potentially producing yet another national leader in a major receiving category.
Of course, it’s all those runs that force defenses to crowd the box and give receivers one-on-one opportunities on the edges. When Air Force finds receivers — like Sanders and Robinette — with the size, skill and speed to exploit matchups, big plays follow.
The key is finding receivers willing to trade volume catches for patience and big plays.
“It’s a good trade-off,” Sanders said. “It’s kind of funny to look at other team’s stats and see players with 15 catches a game. You kind of chuckle. My days of that are over. In high school I was doing that every game. But coming here, it was different at first. It took me a while to change, but now I understand with maturity what this offense is and how much it can affect me. Three catches for a good amount of yards is pretty solid when you’re getting the ball thrown to you and they trust you. So it’s pretty fun.”
Sanders, who entered the season with 23 catches for 440 yards and three touchdowns, has nearly doubled those career totals through seven games.
“You talk about a guy who’s made a ton of improvement, he has,” coach Troy Calhoun said. “I think we probably rushed him a little bit the first year and a half he was here.
“It’s neat to see a guy where good things happen that way.”
Waters, who is currently five catches shy of qualifying for a spot atop the leaderboard, said his big plays have largely been a result of Sanders drawing multiple defensive backs and leaving him open.
“It’s cool here to know as receivers we make our chances count,” said Waters, who has nine catches for 292 yards and two touchdowns. “Every time we throw the ball we know we’re trying to make big gashes in the defense and get a lot of yards and potentially score.”