Despite injuries, poor execution and a willing opponent, Alabama once again proved why they are the elite in college football by winning their fifth championship in nine years.
One could sense the desperation in the fans of Alabama. Down 13-0 at halftime and having been outgained by over 120 yards, questions lingered about how head coach Nick Saban would handle the situation.
After seeing the success that Georgia had with their true freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, who threw for 126 yards on 11-of-23 passing in the first half, Saban went to his true freshman.
Tua Tagovailoa (TOO-uh Tongue-OH-vai-LO-uh) had played sparingly throughout the regular season. Despite his limited play, the Alabama offense had life when he stood behind center. For the season, Tua completed 35-of-53 passes for 470 yards, eight touchdowns and just one interception in his seven regular-season appearances.
Tagovailoa’s route to Tuscaloosa is worth noting. Alabama only offered Tagovailoa a scholarship after they lost the commitment of Fromm.
Jalen Hurts guided Alabama to a record of 25-2 in his starts. He had proven himself capable of leading with their backs against the wall. This season against Mississippi State, Hurts led a second-half rally. Last season in the National Championship game, he gave Alabama the lead on a 30-yard TD run with 2:07 remaining. However, Hurts had completed just 3-of-8 passes for 21 yards in the first half against Georgia, who seemed to be ready for his every move.
Tagovailoa wasn’t perfect, as his interception with Alabama down 20-7 in the third quarter could have been a back-breaker. However, after Alabama’s defense did their part getting the ball back on an interception by Raekwon Davis, Tagovailoa showed why he was the nation’s best quarterback recruit. From there, Alabama outgained the Bulldogs 219-56 and outscored them 19-3.
|National Championship Game|
|Final 21:32 and OT|
|>>Georgia led 20-7 with 6:21 left in 3rd quarter|
Overall, Tagovailoa completed 14-24 for 166 yards, three TD, and an INT. Instead of sulking, Hurts was with him in every huddle, encouraging the player who just might end his career at Alabama. However, you weren’t going to see any finger-pointing or complaining with Nick Saban on the sideline. Saban’s team philosophy came through time and time again against Georgia. Before the game, it was Lester Cotton Jr. and Anfernee Jennings that were unavailable due to injuries. During the game, the Tide lost Jonah Williams and Kyriq McDonald. All game seemed like Alabama players were helped off the field.
Like him or not, Saban always has his players prepared. He expects the same from his star players that he demands from his backups.
Despite the lift that Tagovailoa gave them offensively, the Tide still faced a 10-point deficit entering the fourth quarter. He led Alabama to drives of 71 yards and 66 yards, culminating in a field goal and touchdown to tie the game. He showed his composure on the game-tying touchdown drive, finding Calvin Ridley on fourth down after being chased from the pocket.
The Alabama defense showed why they were the nations best defense. They held Alabama to 16 total yards and consecutive three-and-outs during the final ten minutes, helping the Tide rally. Tua and the Tide now had the National Championship in reach, needing just a score in the final 2:55. The Freshman quarterback executed another brilliant drive, leading the Tide to the Bulldogs 17-yard line with three seconds left.
|Largest Deficit Overcome to Win Nat’l Title Game|
|Since BCS/CFP Began in 1998|
|Florida State||-18||2014 BCS Champ. vs Auburn|
|Clemson||-14||2017 CFP National Championship|
|Alabama||-13||2018 CFP National Championship|
|Texas||-12||2006 Rose Bowl vs USC|
Hardly anyone pays attention to kickers until the game is on the line. While five-star recruits are drooled over and given countless offers to play college football, kickers are not among them. Despite all the hoopla, all the preparation, all the locker room pep talks, the game now rested on the foot of Andy Pappanastos. The 24-year old senior had already missed a kick. Alabama fans had very little confidence in him when he lined up to get the game-winning field goal that would make Alabama National Champions. The offense did everything possible to make the kick more comfortable for him by placing the ball in the middle of the field. However, with the hopes of a state on the line, Pappanastos hooked his kick to the left.
Alabama won the toss and chose to start overtime on defense, where once again they showed why they were the best in the nation. On third down, Terrell Lewis broke through and sacked Fromm at the Alabama 34, forcing the Bulldogs kicker Rodrigo Blankenship to make a 51-yard field goal. Unlike Pappanastos, Blankenship came through. Now Alabama had to answer.
Perhaps the mental aspect of missing a game-winning field goal is underestimated. The Tide essentially had the game won a few minutes prior and now had to make a field goal at least to keep their hopes alive. Their dreams became immediately worse when Tua was sacked for a 16-yard loss on the first play, moving the Tide back to the 41-yard line. Then, once again, Tua showed why he had earned the confidence of Coach Saban. On the next play, Tua brilliantly looked off the safety and connected with DeVonta Smith on a 41-yard TD reception to make Alabama National Champions.
The victory finally gave Saban his 6th National Championship to tie Bear Bryant. After surviving their loss at Auburn and needing the committee to vote them into the playoff, Alabama had once again answered any questions about if they deserved to be a playoff team and that they are the best team in the nation.