Tua Tagovailoa rallies Alabama to 17th national championship
ATLANTA — Alabama has another championship and perhaps a new quarterback as well.
Entering the game to start the second half, true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa led No. 4 Alabama to a comeback for the ages, rallying the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 overtime victory over No. 3 Georgia in Monday night’s College Football Playoff National Championship Game. The win gives Alabama 17 national championships and hands head coach Nick Saban his sixth national title, tying him with legendary Crimson Tide head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant for most all time.
However, the story Monday night was Tagovailoa.
The dynamic playmaker completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns with one interception. No pass was a big as the 41-yard game-winning touchdown he flung to fellow freshman DeVonta Smith on second-and-26 in overtime. Before that, Tagovailoa fired a 7-yard touchdown strike to receiver Calvin Ridley to tie the game at 20 on fourth-and-4 with 3:49 remaining.
Tagovailoa almost led Alabama to a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. However, kicker Andy Pappanastos’ 36-yard kick sailed wide left. That didn’t matter as Alabama rebounded in the extra period to pull out the win.
Tagovailoa provided the shot in the arm Alabama needed after starter Jalen Hurts completed just 3 of 8 passes for 21 yards while going 0-for-3 on third down in the first half. Tagovailoa led Alabama to a touchdown early in the second half, finding fellow freshman Henry Ruggs III for a 6-yard score. The touchdown was set up by a miraculous escape in the pocket four plays earlier as Tagovailoa bounced away from a would-be sack before reversing the field for a 9-yard run on third-and-7.
Tagovailoa was not the only freshman to shine in the game. Alabama running back Najee Harris led the Crimson Tide with 64 yards on six carries with all his touches coming in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Georgia quarterback Jake Fromm completed 16 of 32 passes for 232 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions.
Here are some notes from Monday night’s national championship game:
Ridley brothers have big day
Kassna Daniels didn’t pick sides, instead sporting a homemade shirt representing both of her boys. The proud mother sat in the stands and cheered on both Alabama and Georgia as Calvin and Riley Ridley competed against each other on the field.
Ultimately Calvin and the Crimson Tide had the last laugh. Although, it was Riley, the younger of the two, who put up the best stats. The Georgia receiver led the Bulldogs with a game-high six receptions for 82 yards. Meanwhile, Calvin tallied a team-high four receptions for 32 yards and the game-tying touchdown in the fourth quarter.
The touchdown was Calvin’s was his fifth of the season and 18th of his career. That moved him into a tie with Dennis Homan (1965-67) for second place on the Alabama career touchdown receptions list. Amari Cooper (2012-14) is the UA career leader with 31 scoring catches. Calvin, a junior, has recorded a reception in all 44 games of his Alabama career.
Following the game, the two brothers met on the field and exchanged jerseys.
Sony Michel runs over Alabama
Sony Michel bounced off a defender, dashed past a few more and tight-roped the right sideline to pick up a back-breaking third down conversion and set up Georgia’s first score of the game. The play came after Alabama cornerback Anthony Averett sacked Fromm at the Georgia 48-yard line to set up a third-and-20. Michel’s fancy footwork on the sidelines ultimately led to a field goal, but it helped Georgia pick up momentum moving forward.
Michel finished the game with 98 yards on 14 carries, an average of 7 yards per carry. The senior completely outshined his fellow running back Nick Chubb, who was held to 25 yards on 18 carries. Heading into the game Alabama led the nation in run defense, holding opponents to 91.77 yards per game. Georgia ran for 133 yards on 45 carries Monday night.
Damien Harris passes 1,000-yard mark again
With a 6-yard run up the middle in the third quarter, Alabama running back Damien Harris passed the 1,000-yard mark on the ground for the second straight season. Harris is the first Alabama back to rush for 1,000 or more yards in back-to-back seasons since T.J. Yeldon did so from 2012-13.
Harris has rushed for 17 yards on just carries to finish with an even 1,000 yards and 11 touchdowns this season. It marked the ninth time Alabama has recorded a 1,000-yard rusher under Saban.
1,000-yard rushers under Nick Saban
2017 — Damien Harris, 1,000 yards
2016 — Damien Harris, 1,037 yards
2015 — *Derrick Henry, 2,219 yards
2013 — T.J. Yeldon, 1,235 yards
2012 — Eddie Lacy, 1,322 yards
2012 — T.J. Yeldon, 1,108 yards
2011 — Trent Richardson, 1,679 yards
2009 — *Mark Ingram, 1,658 yards
2008 — Glen Coffee, 1,383 yards
* Heisman winners
With the win, Alabama’s senior class improved its four-year record 53-5, the most wins by any class in NCAA history. Over the past four years, the Crimson Tide has won two national championships, three SEC Championships and four appearances in the College Football Playoff. The 53 wins surpass the 51 Alabama’s 2016 class posted from 2013-16.
Senior linebacker Rashaan Evans finished with 8 tackles, including 1.5 for a loss Monday night. Cornerback Anthony Averett also had a nice final game, tallying six tackles, including a sack and two tackles for a loss to go with a pass breakup.
Evans and senior punter JK Scott both appeared in the seventh College Football Playoff game of their careers. The two are the only Alabama players to participate in every one of the Tide’s CFP games since the inception of the playoff in 2014 and the only four-year players from any school in the history of the playoff.
Last week, Evans said he was determined to finish his career with a win not only for himself and the rest of the seniors but also for the seniors on last year’s team who were unable to walk off the field for a final time with a victory.
The Crimson Tide did just that, not only capping off its redemption season but also cementing this year’s team as one of the best in Alabama history.