After a miserable first half of the College Football Playoff National Championship, Alabama made a drastic change at quarterback and it paid off in a huge way.
Sophomore Jalen Hurts had completed just 3-of-8 passes for 21 yards as the Tide fell behind 13-0 to Georgia, so Alabama went with true freshman Tua Tagovailoa to open the second half.
After a three-and-out on his first possession of the game, Tagovailoa led the Crimson Tide on a seven-play, 56-yard touchdown drive that included one of the best scrambles of the season on a third-down play at midfield.
Tagovailoa would eventually find Henry Ruggs III on a six-yard touchdown pass to cut into Georgia’s lead.
He only got better from there, rallying the Crimson Tide back from another 13-point deficit and eventually tying the game 20-20 on a seven-yard TD pass to Calvin Ridley with just over three minutes to go. Tagovailoa even gave Alabama the chance to win the game late in regulation, driving the Crimson Tide down for a chip-shot field goal in the final seconds, but Alabama’s Andy Pappanastos missed the 36-yarder and the game went to overtime.
But Tagovailoa wasn’t to be denied. After a Georgia field goal in overtime, he wrote his name into Alabama lore with a 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith to win it all 26-23.
He finished 12-of-24 passing for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
Tagovailoa, a five-star recruit out of Hawaii, had appeared in seven games this season, completing 35-of-53 passes for 470 yards, eight touchdowns and one interception. He also added 106 yards and two touchdowns rushing, but mainly saw playing time with the Tide well ahead of its opponent.
Hurts entered the game with a 25-2 record as a starter over his first two seasons with Alabama, but the coaching staff apparently thought Tagovailoa could give the stagnant offense a better chance to succeed.
“I thought we had to throw the ball to win the game and I thought [Tagovailoa] gave us the best chance to do that,” Nick Saban said after the game.
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• Alabama LB Mekhi Brown punches Georgia player, goes after staff member on sideline
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