My 5 favorite Alabama moments from 2018
The year is over, and no, it didn’t end like Alabama fans hoped it would. This just in.
But it was still a 14-0 start that included an SEC Championship, a fifth consecutive Playoff berth and fourth consecutive National Championship Game berth. In other words, there were plenty of moments that stood out.
You probably have your favorite moments of Alabama’s 2018 season — I assume you do if you’re reading this — and I have mine.
Here are mine (feel free to drop yours in the comments section):
5. Tua Tagovailoa’s “Heisman” moment vs. LSU
There’s something about a long quarterback run that’s almost like in baseball when someone scores on a walk-off all the way from first base. It’s usually a somewhat surprising, but slow developing play and you’re like, “is he gonna go? Is he gonna go?!” It’s thrilling, really.
That’s sort of the way I’d describe Tagovailoa’s 44-yard touchdown run against LSU.
Keep in mind that he was still dealing with the knee injury that sent him to the medical tent in the 2 previous games. It was also just a 16-0 game on the road at No. 3 LSU, which many considered Tagovailoa’s first real test of the year. In arguably the most hostile environment in the sport, Tagovailoa’s long run provided the dagger.
And in a somewhat fitting sequence of events, he came up limping during his post-TD celebration.
4. Quinnen Williams stops mid-sentence with an incredible soundbite
It’s so, so, so, so rare that we get anything meaningful that comes from an Alabama player at a press conference. Robotic answers don’t make the rounds in this business. Williams, Alabama’s star defensive tackle, nearly broke character and delivered some bulletin-board material before the Orange Bowl against Oklahoma.
Instead, he hilariously stopped mid-sentence:
Alabama DL Quinnen Williams looked like he was going to say something about Kyler Murray … and then he thought better 🤐 pic.twitter.com/ZXwn0CT5wl
— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) December 28, 2018
What was he going to say?!?!
The best part of this is that because it’s Alabama, you could see him thinking ahead to what would happen if he finished that sentence. Nick Saban would have had a few words for Williams, and even more important, it would have given Oklahoma plenty of ammo.
Instead, it was Williams and Alabama who had the ammo to get off to a fast start and shut down the Heisman Trophy winner after he edged Tagovailoa for the award.
3. The Louisville touchdown that still amazes me
For Alabama’s opener against Louisville, I was in the press box at Camping World Stadium, which is in the southeast corner. I say that because we had the perfect view to watch Tagovailoa’s unreal touchdown pass to Jerry Jeudy.
The way it developed, there was no way that he should have been able to get a throw off. On the surface, some probably thought it was an ill-advised throw. Like, something that you’d expect from someone making his first career start. What I saw, though, was that once Tagovailoa could get his eyes downfield and he had a second to process the coverage, he recognized the 1-on-1 matchup that Jeudy had (via RSHighlights):
Was it a jump ball? Probably. But that spoke to how much trust he had in Jeudy to go up and make the play in that spot.
Keep in mind that the big knock on Jalen Hurts in 2017 was his lack of trust in Alabama’s young receivers. If Calvin Ridley wasn’t open, Hurts would tuck it and run. To watch Tagovailoa basically do the exact opposite of that for his first touchdown pass of the season was telling.
It was the first moment of brilliance from Tagovailoa this season, and it’s one of the more incredible plays I’ve ever seen in person.
2. Nick Saban’s blowup after Maria Taylor asked about the quarterbacks
Speaking of that Louisville game, it set a pretty obvious precedent. That is, Tagovailoa was the starter and Jalen Hurts was now the backup. Even though Hurts entered the game in the second quarter for a bit and then again in the second half when the game was in hand, that was still clear to anyone with a pair of eyes.
After an entire offseason of dodging questions about the quarterback situation, a cranky Saban met ESPN’s Maria Taylor for a postgame interview following the 51-14 win. Obviously Taylor had to ask at least one question about the quarterbacks.
And Saban wasn’t about that life:
Nick Saban went at Maria Taylor's neck LOLpic.twitter.com/gbTbtd561c
— JzoSports (@JzoSports) September 2, 2018
When we put together the all-time Saban soundbites video, that’ll definitely be on it.
Saban later apologized. Not that it was the worst thing he’s said, but even he could admit that it was probably a bit much given the nature of what was clearly a fair question. A conflicted Saban admittedly let his emotions get the best of him.
But that was really the last time that Saban got that riled up about his quarterbacks. Soon he realized what everybody else did.
He had the best problem a coach could ask for.
1. Jalen Hurts leads SEC Championship comeback
You knew what No. 1 had to be. The fact that I was there and sitting in the Georgia section — as a neutral observer — made this moment stand out even more for me.
Go figure that in a year in which Tagovailoa took the college football world by storm after stealing Hurts’ starting job, it’s the latter who had the top moment of the year.
What made Hurts’ comeback in the SEC Championship so special was all similarities to when he was benched in the title game last year. In the same building against the same team, Hurts led a charge that might have (we’ll never know) saved Alabama’s Playoff hopes.
And besides just scoring points, Hurts showed his development as a passer. The touchdown pass that he threw to Jeudy to tie the game was a play that in 2017, there’s no doubt Hurts would have tried to run it in. Even better, he did most of his damage with his arm, which was the perfect way for him to show just how much he grew in 2018.
It left Saban emotional and nearly speechless. He admitted that even Hollywood wouldn’t have believed that script.
“I’m so proud of this guy for what he’s done this year, I can’t even tell you.”
Nick Saban got emotional when speaking about the heroics of Jalen Hurts. pic.twitter.com/mmY4HfoFqD
— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 2, 2018
No matter what Hurts does in a different uniform in 2019, he’ll always be considered an Alabama legend for how he responded in that moment. There’s really not much that could have made that fourth quarter better.
Well, it would have been better if it came in the title game.