In last Saturday's blitzing of Elmhurst in the CCIW opener, the Augustana football team showed some new wrinkles in its offensive attack.
The Vikings threw passes on five of their first six plays of the game — completing all of them during an eight-play 59-yard drive.
On their next two drives, Viking quarterback Zach Fuller hit fellow seniors Tom Dolis and Ethan Jennings with touchdown passes.
Welcome to “Air Augie.”
And why not? Fuller is a fifth-year senior who is best friends with two of his favorite targets, and the chemistry they have built — along with junior Max Uranich — has been obvious.
So far this season, Dolis (seven catches for 134 yards) already has three touchdown receptions, eclipsing the one he had all of last year. Jennings (six catches, 83 yards) has already matched last year's TD total with two.
“We have a lot of snaps under out belts, and we've built a lot of chemistry with Fuller over the past few years,” said Dolis. “He has the confidence in us and we know we don't have to win our routs by a lot because we know the ball is going to be in the right spot. … He has a lot of trust in us.”
“I just think confidence is a big thing, and Fuller is confident in us,” said Jennings, who last week became the 14th Viking to eclipse the 1,000-yard career receiving yards plateau. “We put the work in here this summer.”
Well, actually that work goes back four years — or more. Jennings and Dolis were high school teammates at Chicago Notre Dame prep. It wasn't part of the plan to continue their football days together in college, but it worked out that way as they have been roommates for four years.
Coincidentally, or maybe by some grand design, they both took their overnight visit to campus as high school seniors and were paired with Fuller.
Their relationships have grown both on and off the field, and those results are showing.
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“They both are really technically sound,” said Fuller of two of his top targets. “I think Dolis is a little bit quicker than Ethan and Ethan is a little better of a route runner than Dolis. But both of them use what they're good at to their advantage, and they are both really strong. They don't have to be really fast to create separation, and that will allow us to take a lot of deep shots this year.”
That has also allowed the Vikings to add some options to the passing game.
“Just the chemistry that I have with them," said Fuller of the biggest change. “They know when I'm going to throw the ball and I know when they are going to get out of their breaks. I can really trust them on any route concepts because I know where they're going to be. I also know they are both athletic enough and strong enough to make plays.”
Both have shown that this season, making grabs this year that might have been incompletions in the past. Dolis, for example, made a great lunging catch for a touchdown in the opener against Coe. Off-balance, he made a ticklish grab with outstretched arms and used his hand strength to haul in a 35-yard scoring strike.
“He's just got a knack for getting open,” said Augie coach Steve Bell of Dolis, an accounting and business finance major who has 51 catches for 532 yards and five TDs in his collegiate career. “He's very football intelligent.”
Jennings, at 6-foot-1, 200 pounds, has been a go-to receiver when he can stay healthy. The team captain has been a four-year player and has caught 63 passes for 1,022 yards and six TDs. The business administration and communication major passed Tom Anthony for 13th place on the school's all-time reception yardage list last weekend.
“Ethan, when he walked onto the field as a freshman, you knew this kid was going to be able to play,” said Bell. “He has worked his tail off to get to this point.”
In fact, both have. And it is showing for in the 2019 Vikings.
“Personally, I think we've both been mastering our craft a lot more,” said Dolis. “Working on little details to get open. Those are the things that are making a difference.”
That is showing on Saturdays so far this season.