Alabama benched a QB with two career Playoff wins for a true freshman ... and it worked.
Tua Tagovailoa took over for a struggling Jalen Hurts at halftime and immediately led Bama’s first actual drive, highlighted by this scramble:
Two TDs later, he added a third that stamped him as an instant Alabama legend:
Alabama was putting in true freshmen all over the place.
True freshman DeVonta Smith caught the winning pass. True freshman Najee Harris was Bama’s leading rusher. True freshman Alex Leatherwood took over for an injured Jonah Williams at left tackle. True freshman Henry Ruggs III caught a TD.
Bama was probably going to assume its customary No. 1 preseason ranking heading into next season anyway, but now there’s no doubt.
True freshman threw it— SB Nation Recruiting (@SBNRecruiting) January 9, 2018
True freshman blocking
True freshman on the catch
Yeah... That 2017 Alabama signing class was just incredible.
Got the best player in the country at so many positions. https://t.co/etDqnJevHZ
It takes a lot to say Bama overcame adversity — as if Bama has problems — but this somehow qualifies.
Majority of LB crew banged up, OL banged up, new OC, DC leaving for another job, replaced QB & LT with freshman in the title game.....— Cole Cubelic (@colecubelic) January 9, 2018
The most impressive coaching performance on the Nick Saban resume.
The QB who was benched in the middle of the title game handled it like a champ.
I chatted with Jalen Hurts after the game. Young man is all class. pic.twitter.com/rJM7UPZIxw— Marty Smith (@MartySmithESPN) January 9, 2018
For the third year in a row, the National Championship went bonkers.
How do you top Clemson-Bama Round I?
Oh, maybe have Deshaun Watson lead a game-winning revenge drive at the buzzer.
How do you top that?
Let’s have the first overtime title game since 2002.
For the third year in a row, the team leading at the end of the third lost.
And for the second year in a row, that deficit heading into the fourth was 10 points.
(One thing that was not awesome: the officiating.)
Here are four ugly misses by the Big Ten refs, all of which went against Georgia, including what ended up being the season’s second most critical play. A missed false start enabled the tying TD late:
Bad calls happen against everyone, and I’m sure UGA got away with things, but I really don’t know how Bama would’ve won without a couple of those.
Georgia came THAT close to knocking off its predecessor in Year 2.
Nick Saban reaches 12-0 against former pupils, but Kirby Smart’s building a behemoth. Speaking of freshmen, that was a rookie year for UGA QB Jake Fromm, too. And a whole lot of big names are leaving, but here comes one of the highest-rated recruiting classes ever. To sum it up:
“Everybody respects Georgia now,” Dawg cornerback Deandre Baker said. “Even though we took an L tonight, everybody respects Georgia now.”
Just ... this whole sequence.
Watch this whole thing. Freshman takes a sack, frustration runs rampant, and somebody decides — f*** it! — to just dial up four verts, literally a play Alabama installs on day one. And it was the play of the year.
This live sequence of sack to Saban freaking out to Jalen Hurts to Tua looking off a safety and firing a GW touchdown is incredible. pic.twitter.com/MWN2J8BaGd— Tyler Dunne (@TyDunne) January 9, 2018
Georgia made mid-game adjustments as well, such as deciding to stop being an air raid team.
First seven snaps: passes.
Georgia must run the ball!— Gary Patterson (@TCUCoachP) January 9, 2018
Georgia. Run the ball!!!— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) January 9, 2018
Me: RUN THE DANG BALL BOBO— SB Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) January 9, 2018
Bobo: Sorry, I'm in the Coaches Film Room atm and also work at Colorado State now pic.twitter.com/kdcYMTSloJ
UGA got back to its brand:
And the former Bama OC rejoiced:
Thx for listening!! It's not that hard— Lane Kiffin (@Lane_Kiffin) January 9, 2018
Georgia forced an INT, breaking a streak stretching back to Alabama vs. Texas in 2009’s BCS.
INT snaps the streak for Alabama offense without a TO in Championship Games under Saban at 376 plays.— Chris Fallica (@chrisfallica) January 9, 2018
Mecole Hardman scored maybe the tightrope-walkingest TD you’ll ever see.
And Javon Wims made an even more ridiculous catch, using a Bama player’s leg to stay in bounds.
Totally how you draw it up.
Alabama’s Mekhi Brown has a future in the WWE.
From getting flagged for whapping Georgia linebacker Walter Grant ...
... to a dustup on his own sideline ...
... to bouncing back with a clothesline on a kick return that made everyone say, “Wait, why was he allowed back into the game to make that brutal tackle? ... I guess I just answered my own question.”
I don’t know where else to put this section, and I apologize for it.
A red-and-black team from the state of Georgia had a late, multi-score lead against a team whose primary offensive and defensive coaches come from the Bill Belichick tree, but lost on a touchdown in overtime. I’m a Falcons fan, so I’m allowed to type all this.
Even more painful for the old heads: Georgia’s lost a title game in this exact fashion before.
We had TITLE GAME PIESMAN, thanks to Raekwon Davis leaping to snag a helmet doink.
And he didn’t even have the smoothest moves by a Bama lineman. Bradley Bozeman ended up with the best day of anybody.
The Tide won despite wildly shanking two field goals, a Bama tradition in big games.
One at the buzzer that would’ve won it in regulation:
Yeah, someone was responsible for updating Bama’s helmet on the ESPN set with the Tide’s new number of claimed titles*, and doing so via comically huge decals.
The memes of the night were provided by UGA strength assistant Aaron Feld’s 1853 mustache and ruthless kicker Rodrigo Blankenship’s specs.
Georgia makes its own clothes out of artisanal avocados. Maybe you've never heard of them pic.twitter.com/DiFOPJFCXH— SB Nation CFB (@SBNationCFB) January 9, 2018
All the good stuff started once President Donald Trump left.
Whether you like him or not, you gotta admit that’s funny.
Per White House pool report, President Trump has left Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which means that as far as he knows, Georgia is the national champion— Jay Busbee (@jaybusbee) January 9, 2018
He bailed at halftime, when the score was 13-0. His brief visit ended up delaying tons of fans’ entry into the stadium, thanks to the Secret Service.
Meanwhile, on the outside of the building, because this is the city of Atlanta:
Comfortably the best halftime show in college football history, if I do say so myself, even if it was lip-syncy, minor, censored, and chilly Kendrick.
The Playoff was won by the team that landed the most controversial bid yet.
Look at Skip go:
I still don't believe Alabama belonged in these playoffs.— Skip Bayless (@RealSkipBayless) January 9, 2018
On the field, THAT GAME happened, and a whole other team has decided it’s the actual champion of FBS.
And we didn’t get BINGO, but we came really close.
(Bama’s “16” titles weren’t mentioned during the portion of the broadcast that counted, unless we and our followers on Twitter missed them.)