Saban, Alabama Crimson Tide players comment on Tua Tagovailoa's injury
STARKVILLE, Miss. — The scoreboard says Alabama won big Saturday. Rebounding from its first loss of the season, the Crimson Tide pounded Mississippi State 38-7, outgaining the Bulldogs 510-270.
However, the mood outside of Alabama’s locker room told a different story as Crimson Tide players lamented the loss of Tua Tagovailoa, who had to be carted off the field in the second quarter. Following the game, the university released a statement confirming that the starting quarterback dislocated his right hip and will miss this remainder of the season.
“I’m just hurt about what happened to our quarterback earlier,” running back Najee Harris said. “I’m not in the mood to answer any questions… (Tagovailoa) means a lot to the team. It’s our guy. I came here at the same time he did. We’ve been friends ever since my freshman year, and to see him go down like that, it really hurts.”
Tagovailoa suffered the injury while rolling to his left in the second quarter. Upon getting rid of the ball he was hit by two Mississippi State defenders, forcing him to land awkwardly on his right leg. After a few agonizing moments on the field, he was carted to Alabama's locker room.
“We hate it,” Alabama head coach Nick Saban said during his postgame news conference. “We hate that he got injured. We hate it for him. We hate it for his family. We hate if any player on our team gets injured. Godspeed to him and his entire family and our thoughts and prayers are with him and hope this isn’t so serious that it has any long-term effect on his future as a player."
Tagovailoa was already battling an ankle injury and was ruled a game-time decision this week. Last week, he returned from a high-ankle sprain less than three weeks removed from a tightrope procedure. He nearly led Alabama to a second-half comeback against LSU before leaving Bryant-Denny Stadium with a noticeable limp.
After missing time in practice earlier this week, Tagovailoa appeared to make progress on his ankle. Saturday he was named as one of the Crimson Tide's three team captains before earning the start.
"We felt like if he could move in pregame, which we took him out before the team ever went out, he was good,” Saban said. “He was at least as good as he was a week ago in terms of his ability to move, and I didn't think anything he did affected his performance in the first half. So, you know, the guy played, and I think he played really well.”
Tagovailoa completed his first nine passes against Mississippi State and led Alabama to touchdowns on its first five possessions. The left-hander was 14 of 18 for 256 yards and two touchdowns before the injury.
While few will question Saban's decision to start Tagovailoa once he was cleared, the head coach drew some criticism for failing to take the starter out after the Crimson Tide established a comfortable lead. At the time of Taogvailoa's injury late in the second half, Alabama led Mississippi State 35-7.
“We can second guess ourselves all we want,” Saban said. “We told Mac (Jones) to warm up and we were going to go 2-minute before the half. Tua wanted to play in the game and so I don’t really make a lot of decisions based on worrying if a guy is going to get hurt.”
Following the game, Saban was questioned about what the value was of marching Tagovailoa out for a final two-minute drive.
“The way I look at this whole thing is Tua’s our No. 1 quarterback. He’s physically able to play. We want to play him in the game,” Saban said. “That’s what he wanted to do, and that’s what our team wanted him to do. If I would’ve known that anything bad was going to happen, I certainly wouldn’t have put him in that situation. But we’re a team, and we’re a team that is trying to get better in the long term and the long run to see if we can finish the season the way we want.”
Mac Jones replaced Tagovailoa in the second half, completing his first seven passes while finishing the game 7 of 11 for 94 yards. However, the redshirt sophomore failed to move the ball with the same success as Alabama’s injured starter as the Crimson Tide was limited to a field goal following the break.
“I thought Mac played well,” Saban said. “I talked to Mac last night, and I talked to Tua last night. They knew exactly how we would play this game today relative to how Tua was before the game. Mac was good with it. I thought Mac did a good job in the game. I thought he had the right mindset. He practiced well all week, and he was well prepared for the game. And we had confidence in him to go in and play today”
Receiver Jerry Jeudy said he is praying for a speedy recovery from Tagovailoa but expressed confidence in Alabama’s ability to move forward under Jones. Last month, Jones filled in for an injured Tagovailoa, leading the Crimson Tide to a 48-7 victory over Arkansas in his first career start.
“We’ve got a great level of confidence in Mac,” Jeudy said. “He’s been practicing real good. He’s been practicing with the ones a lot, doing everything he’s supposed to do. We’ve got tremendous confidence in Mac.”
Saban also provided updates on three other Alabama players, stating defensive end Raekwon Davis suffered a sprained ankle, while defensive tackle D.J. Dale twisted his knee and receiver Henry Ruggs III sustained bruised ribs.
Alabama (9-1, 6-1 in the SEC) will return home next week to face FCS foe Western Carolina at 11 a.m. CT inside Bryant-Denny Stadium.
“Football, you’re never injury-free,” Jeudy said. “Stuff like that happens, but we’ve still got to focus on what we’ve got to do next week. We had a great game today. Now it’s time to focus on our next step.”