Bama burns foes with the pass

The Alabama offense Tennessee will face Saturday night at Neyland Stadium doesn't throw many passes -- 15 per game, on average -- but the Tide makes 'em count.

Although Bama has completed a mere 61 passes (out of 104 attempts) through seven games this fall, the hookups have accounted for 874 yards, an average of 14.3 yards per completion. That suggests the passing attack provides a big-play dimension to the Tide's offense.

''You may look at pass attempts and see they've thrown the ball 19 times and completed 8, but it's for 240 yards,'' Vol defensive coordinator John Chavis says. ''That tells you they're getting big chunks. And you at the receivers' yards-per-catch and it's 16, 17 or 18. That's big, so they're making big plays. A lot of that's coming off misdirection.''

Actually, the numbers are even more impressive than Chavis suggested. Dre Fulgham, Bama's second-leading receiver, is averaging 19.5 yards per catch (12 for 234 yards). Sam Collins, the third-leading receiver, is averaging 18.0 (11 for 198) and Donald Clarke, the fifth-leading receiver, is average 23.2 yards per catch (4 for 93).

What makes Bama's passing attack so dangerous is that the Tide lulls opponents to sleep with its ground-oriented option attack. Just as the defense starts to overplay the option, Alabama fakes the option and strikes through the air.

''They make you play the entire field -- not just the option but also the misdirection passes off of it,'' Chavis says. ''They've been able to create big plays and gain momentm that way. What you have to do is be sound against the option and try to eliminate the big plays on the misdirection.''

Making Tennessee's task a little more difficult is the fact Bama has two quarterbacks who are equally adept at running its offense. Tyler Watts is a little better runner, Brodie Croyle a little better passer.

''There's not a lot of difference in the two,'' Chavis says. ''Both of them can run the offense. When you look at 'em on film, it doesn't matter which quarterback is in the game. They've had success moving the football on everybody.... You have to really look and check the numbers to find out which one's in there. He (Croyle) runs the option as well as Tyler. Both of them seem to have a good grasp of the offense and what they're trying to do.''

***This story originally posted on Tuesday October 22, noted that Alabama has completed 61 of 104 attempts for 874 yards this fall, an average of 14.3 yards per reception. Actually, those are Bama's statistics for HOME GAMES ONLY.

The Tide's complete seven-game passing stats are: 97 of 197 for 1,279 yards, an average of 15.0 yards per reception.

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