Once I turned up field I was looking for only one thing: endzone," Fletcher said. ">
Once I turned up field I was looking for only one thing: endzone," Fletcher said. ">

Tide 'Playmaker' makes two

Heading into last week's game, Alabama was a team looking for something good to happen. And on the Tide's third play from scrimmage, Zach Fletcher did exactly that, turning a simple screen pass into an 86-yard touchdown. "<br><br>Once I turned up field I was looking for only one thing: endzone," Fletcher said.

After the opening kickoff Alabama started on its own 20 yardline. Its first play, termed "a disaster" by Tide Head Coach Mike Shula, resulted in a nine-yard loss. A short swing pass didn't help matters much. But when the Tide cam up to the line of scrimmage, quarterback Brodie Croyle noticed that Mississippi State was set to blitz.

After Croyle audibled to a bubble screen, Fletcher made his play.

Zach Fletcher gallops for his first touchdown Saturday against Mississippi State. (Kent Gidley photo)

"On the first touchdown the cornerback was playing off," Shula explained. "Zach made the catch and used his quickness. He had a lot of yards in front of him."

"The original play was a post route, but Brodie audibled to the screen," Fletcher recalled. "When they're blitzing we have to change it up so Brodie won't get killed."

Fans love the blitz, but there's a reason why good teams only utilize it sparingly.

"We all know the old cliche', ‘you live and die by the blitz,'" Shula said. "We were able to make a short throw. Zach broke a tackle; he picked up some blocks later on and got it into the endzone."

After making the first man miss, Fletcher expected a good gain. But as he cut back across the grain toward midfield he discovered several Tide players providing downfield blocks.

"I just followed my blocks," Fletcher said. "That was about it. I saw the guys out there blocking, so I tried to use them."

Fletcher's gaudy 25.2 average per reception easily leads the squad in that category. (Barry Fikes photo)

Croyle's throw barely traveled beyond the line of scrimmage, but the play goes into the record books as an 86-yard touchdown pass.

"It's really nice to have a guy that you can throw a one yard pass and have him take it 86 for a touchdown," Croyle said smiling. "That helps your average."

On State's next possession, Ramzee Robinson tipped an attempted pass away from his man, and an alert Charlie Peprah made the diving interception. Three plays later Bama had its second touchdown of the day, thanks to a 17-yard pass and catch from Croyle to Tyrone Prothro.

"Peprah's interception was a big break for us," Fletcher acknowledged, "but stuff happens so fast in football. We've been ahead before and still got beaten."

Down by 14 points, the Bulldogs managed to calm things down temporarily. But midway through the second period Fletcher struck again.

Bama took possession just past midfield. Five running plays and a penalty later, the Tide faced a fourth and six at the State 32 yardline, just a bit too far for a field goal and yet not really far enough out to punt.

Then another short pass to Fletcher turned into gold, as the senior wideout broke a tackle and ran into the endzone.

"On Zach's second (touchdown) it was press coverage with a blitz," Shula explained. "Brodie hung in there as long as he could. He put the ball there right on time and again Zach used his quickness to get himself into the endzone."

Fletcher had been quiet in recent games, but he definitely made some noise last Saturday.

"Just make the first guy miss and turn up field; that's the name of the game," Fletcher said. "If you can make one guy miss, then you can make the play. That's exactly what happened. You'll always score."

Two catches, 118 yards receiving and two touchdowns. Not a bad day's work for a wideout.

"He's tall and lean and can run," Shula said of his big-play receiver. "For a smaller cornerback, Zach's tough to cover."

Saturday's victory stopped Bama's losing skid. But with third-ranked LSU arriving in town this weekend, Fletcher isn't about to get overconfident.

"It was good to win, but we won't know how things are going till this week," Fletcher explained. "We did a lot of good things Saturday, but there are plenty of things we need to correct."

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