Alabama football: Healthy Tua Tagovailoa 'excited' for challenge of Death Valley
TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — During the Hewitt-Trussville vs. Thompson High School football game this past Friday, there were multiple shots of Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and LSU coach Ed Orgeron.
At one point, the duo were shown greeting each other among the packed crowd on hand to watch Tagovailoa’s younger brother, Taulia, and Bear Bryant’s great-grandson, Paul Tyson Jr., square off. Both are Alabama commits, giving even more intrigue to the game.
While we can only guess what Tagovailoa and Orgeron discussed, one thing is clear: Tagovailoa is sure to keep Orgeron up late into the night this week.
Tagovailoa will lead No. 1 Alabama into Baton Rouge for a showdown against No. 4 LSU on Saturday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
It’ll be Tagovailoa’s first trip to Death Valley for what is considered by many to be the best, most raucous atmosphere in all of college football.
“I heard it’s really loud over there,” Tagovailoa said Monday. “I heard that it’s a really hostile environment that we’re going to. I thought Tennessee was very loud. From all the guys who played there in previous years, they said it’s really, really loud. I’m excited.”
Each game at Tiger Stadium during Nick Saban’s tenure has come down to the final minutes. Alabama needed overtime in 2008, lost in 2010 then won on a late go-ahead touchdown in 2012, in overtime in 2014 and on a fourth-quarter touchdown from then-freshman Jalen Hurts in 2016.
But Tagovailoa is expected to be the difference-maker. Tagovailoa said Monday that his knee is fine, and he is 100 percent heading into the game.
With Tagovailoa running the show, Alabama has scored more than 40 points in all but one game this year. Alabama has topped 50 points six times in eight games and scored 60 or more in two.
Tagovailoa has thrown for 2,066 yards and 25 touchdowns in eight starts in 2018 on 107-of-152 passing (70.4 percent). He leads the nation in pass efficiency (238.8) and yards per completion (19.31) and is tied for sixth in touchdown passes. In SEC play this season, he has completed 74 of 109 passes (67.9 percent) for 1,483 yards and 17 touchdowns. If Alabama is to blow out LSU in Baton Rouge, it’ll be on the arm of Tagovailoa.
LSU is expected to be a tough test due to their resume and their ranking, but the offensive numbers don’t back it up.
LSU is last in the SEC in yards per play, averaging 5.33 compared to Alabama’s 8.3, which is the second best in the nation.
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow is a fine player, but he and the LSU offense don’t possess the quick-strike ability Alabama has with Tagovailoa.
LSU would need for its offense to completely reinvent itself and hope Alabama struggles. Neither is likely to happen.
Tiger Stadium presents its own set of challenges for an opposing offense given the decibel level, but Saban is confident in his young quarterback.
“I think Tua has demonstrated that he is able to stay in the moment in terms of being able to execute,” Saban said. “I think that it’s going to be really, really important in the atmosphere and against the good team that we’re going to play, especially the way they play defense. There are a lot of challenges here, and we’ll find out a lot about who we are in terms of how we meet these challenges.”