Fulgham fulfilling promise

Alabama leads the SEC in time of possession, keeping the ball for more than 33 minutes a game. But the Tide's final touchdown Saturday lasted only 34 seconds, with two receptions by Dre Fulgham accounting for all 60 yards of the drive. <br><br>"I'm not sure I could be more wide open on Saturday's touchdown pass," Fulgham said.

Ahead 23-0 at the time, Alabama took possession of the ball early in the fourth quarter at its own 40-yard line. Quarterback Brodie Croyle started by gunning a pass to Fulgham down to the Vanderbilt 41. Then came the touchdown strike.

Fulgham recalled the play, "We ran a little wheel route. Vandy played the post, which left me uncovered. They covered Triandos well on the post, and I just ran a wheel route behind him. Brodie threw a good ball.

Triandos Luke (84) high-fives Fulgham (3) following Fulgham's touchdown Saturday. (Associated Press)

"I was so wide open I couldn't tell what the coverage was."

With the Commodore safety caught up inside, Fulgham found himself running alone. Some athletes have trouble with those kind of plays, getting nervous and losing their concentration as the ball approaches. But Fulgham routinely hauled in the pass before waltzing into the endzone. "I had to wait on it a little bit, but everything worked out," he said. "Those are the easiest balls to catch."

Averaging 212 yards rushing and 194 via the air, the 2002 Tide offense is difficult to defend. Saturday the Commodore coaches picked their poison, putting extra men in the box in an effort to stop the Tide rushing attack. "They wanted to stop the run," Fulgham explained. "They had studied film of our previous games. Every team in the country studies film, and they want to stop what you dominate in. They committed to stop our run, so we went to the passing game."

Happily taking advantage of what the Vandy defense offered up, Alabama passed for 271 yards in Saturday's win, 92 of which was credited to Fulgham. "I thought it was a pretty good effort on my part and by the team," he said. "Our goal was to come into the game and get a win."

Averaging 17.8 yards per reception, Fulgham has developed into a consistent deep threat for Alabama. "Dre has certainly made those kind of plays," said Tide Head Coach Dennis Franchione. "He has the athletic ability, the speed, the size and strength. That makes him difficult to cover, because of his size and strength. He is a guy that we are comfortable throwing to deep."

Fulgham holds the program record for receivers on both the flat and incline bench press. "You don't find many receivers with his size," Franchione noted. "Sometimes I look at him and I think tailback or fullback--not that I'm thinking about moving him. He's strong. Dre bench presses 440 pounds.

After catching only three balls his first two seasons, Fulgham is currently the Tide's leading receiver in terms of yardage.

"If you notice, on his short routes people have a difficult time tackling him."

Despite his athleticism, in his first two seasons of college football Fulgham caught only three passes. But this year the junior has come into his own, hauling in 22 receptions for 409 yards and three touchdowns.

Fulgham leads the Tide in terms of receiving yardage. "He has played well," Franchione acknowledged. "(Tide Receivers) Coach Pope has been speaking of him in impressive terms. Dre struggled a little mentally last season and it made it difficult for him to make adjustments. But now he's sharp mentally and the physical part kicked in."

"It's just taking advantage of my opportunities," Fulgham said. "This year I've had a chance to start, and that's opening things up for me. I'm just playing and having a good time."

Before the season began, pundits pointed to Bama's receivers as a probable weak spot on offense. But the unit has performed much better than expected, helping the Tide to its current ranking as the SEC's No. 1 offense. "We read all the stuff in the magazines," Fulgham acknowledged. "We took it on ourselves as a challenge. We wanted to see how good we could be as a group. Things are working out. We challenge each other every week on how hard we're going to block downfield and to catch the balls and keep the drives alive.

"People can say whatever they want to about our receivers. I think we have a pretty good group."

Always one of the best all-around athletes on the squad, Fulgham is enjoying easily his best college season.

Talking about Bama's league-best offense, Franchione noted that not a single Tide player was listed among the conference leaders. "With Sam (Collins), Dre, Triandos (Luke) and the emergence of Zach Fletcher, we don't have to look for one guy. If we had only one, then we'd have to orchestrate more things. But the evenness and solid performance week-in and week-out of all our receivers means we don't have to orchestrate for Dre Fulgham. We just have to run our offense and do the things the defense gives us.

"Dre happened to be the benefactor last week. And when the offense has led to that this year, he's certainly made the plays."

"We just practice hard Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday," Fulgham said. "We're called upon to do our job, and we do it. No one person feels like they have to be special. We're a team."

Bama's current record stands at 7-2 overall, 4-1 in the conference. The Tide is ranked 11th in the nation in the latest Associated Press poll and is tied with Georgia for the best record in the SEC.

"Right now we feel good," Fulgham acknowledged. "We've got a great opportunity to build a special team. We just want to keep going."


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