Jacob Hollister only needed one block.
The Air Force defender opposite him bit on Wyoming quarterback Josh Allen’s play action, leaving the senior wide open in the flat for his second of two catches in the Cowboys’ 35-26 victory on Oct. 8.
Ahead of him were fellow tight end Tyree Mayfield and receiver Jake Maulhardt. Mayfield shoved back the Falcon defensive back trying to cut off Hollister before he reached the first-down marker. Hollister, however, had his eyes on something bigger.
Before Maulhardt could settle on a body to block, Hollister turned on the jets. He made a speedy turn inside, and the last Falcon between him and the end zone was left attempting a tackle that barely would have qualified in a two-hand touch pickup game. The end result was a 32-yard touchdown in the Cowboys’ second consecutive Mountain West victory.
“The acceleration from Hollister when he first turns the corner was a little surprising,” ROOT Sports commenter Sed Bonner said.
The announcers might have been surprised, and Air Force’s defense sure was. But head coach Craig Bohl wasn’t.
And Hollister? Well, he’s used to it.
“I think they definitely underestimate me a little bit,” the 6-foot-4, 239-pound Bend, Oregon, native said of opposing teams. “But that’s why every time you get the ball you’ve got to make the most of it and show them different.”
The touchdown was Hollister’s first since the season opener against Northern Illinois.
“We’ve been a little bit disappointed we have not integrated him more,” Bohl said. “We tried to, and so it was great to see him make that big play, and he’s got really good speed.”
Hollister is a little bit off his pace from a year ago when he had 26 catches for 355 yards. Through six games, he is on track for 224 yards on 20 catches. However, he does have two touchdowns this year after scoring three all of last season.
Offensive coordinator Brent Vigen called it a “red flag” when Hollister didn’t have any catches in the Cowboys’ loss to Eastern Michigan. Since that game — his only one this year without a reception — Hollister has four catches for 68 yards and a score in two games.
Not huge numbers, but enough to keep the defense honest — or, like on his Air Force touchdown, to take advantage if a defense isn’t giving Hollister his due.
Part of the issue, Bohl said, is the way that teams have been defending Wyoming this season on pass plays.
“I think some of it is just how people have leveraged the coverages,” he said. “They have given us a little bit more opening on the outside where last year they gave us the same coverages and we couldn’t take advantage of some of the open space. Well this year, we can throw it.
“So that’s been a little bit why Tanner (Gentry) and Jake have gotten so much, but our tight ends are good players, and hopefully we’ll have a chance to get them involved this week.”
But when Allen has looked to Hollister, he has been a reliable target. Hollister’s 10 catches this season have come on just 14 targets.
Allen seems to have gotten more comfortable in targeting tight ends in general — not just Hollister — in recent weeks, something that the Cowboys can utilize in their pro-style attack.
“You look at our offense, we always have the tight ends running routes and doing all sorts of different stuff,” Hollister told the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/2dnK5uO). “I feel like the tight ends are a big focal point of this offense, and it’s good to be a part of an offense like this.”
But whatever the approach, Hollister is happy to make the most of his opportunities.
“Anytime I can contribute, when I’m getting receptions or anything like that (it’s important),” Hollister said. “Just because I feel like I can contribute in a big way when it comes to that. It was definitely nice to get some more catches the last couple games, but any way really I can contribute, whether it’s blocking or catching, it doesn’t really matter.”