Alabama benched starting quarterback Jalen Hurts after halftime of Monday’s National Championship against Georgia. It ended paying dividends, to say the least, as Alabama secured its sixth national championship under Nick Saban.
Saban turned to five-star freshman backup Tua Tagovailoa to start the second half, and Tagovailoa rewarded him quickly.
For a true freshman quarterback, it was a performance we’ll remember for a long time.
Alabama scored its first points of the game on Tagovailoa’s second drive.
Tagovailoa threw a 6-yard touchdown to fellow freshman Henry Ruggs III, to make it a 13-7 game, and give the Tide momentum they needed.
That was nice. Much nicer was a 9-yard scramble on a third-and-7 earlier in the drive, where Tagovailoa eluded a horde of Bama rushers, reversed the field, and muscled his way past the line to preserve Bama’s drive.
He threw an interception in the third quarter that he appeared to mean to throw out of bounds, but was hit on the play. But the Tide stayed persistent.
He would tie the game with a beautiful off-balance throw.
Down 20-13 and faced with a fourth-and-four from Georgia’ seven-yard line, the freshman threw a touchdown pass to tie the game at 20 with less than four minutes to go:
Then, he sealed his legacy.
The game went into overtime after Tagovailoa’s touchdown pass late in the fourth quarter and another missed Alabama field goal. Georgia got just a field goal on their possession, a 51-yarder from Rodrigo Blankenship.
After taking a 16-yard sack that placed Alabama at Georgia’s 41-yard line, he threw a touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to win the game:
He became so famous during the game, well...
the quarterback in the national championship got a wikipedia page at some point in the third quarter, congrats pic.twitter.com/LDHgEvXbhn— Jon Bois (@jon_bois) January 9, 2018
The Alabama offense went scoreless in a 13-0 first half against Georgia, prompting the decision to move to Tagovailoa.
Hurts completed 3 of 8 passes for just 21 yards, along with six rushes for 47 yards.
Tagovailoa getting action in this game perhaps isn’t too surprising, as Alabama said it was prepared to play him in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson.
The Hawaii native has gotten chances to operate Alabama offense at times this season, as you might imagine with some of the Tide’s blowout losses. He has a similar playing style to Jalen Hurts, and some consider him to even be a better passer.
On the season, the freshman had played in seven games, completing 35 of his 53 passes for eight touchdowns and one interception.
It’s almost like he knew this was coming.
“Anywhere you go, you’re gonna have to compete,” he said as a recruit. “In life, you’re gonna go get a job. You’re gonna have to compete with the next person” to move up.
On college football’s biggest stage, he got his chance to move up. Coming out of high school, Tagovailoa was rated the No. 2 dual-threat quarterback in the country on the 247Sports Composite.
Now, he’s got a championship as a true freshman.