Rapid Reaction: This time, Alabama answers with a walk-off touchdown to win the national title
A true freshman quarterback won the national title Monday night, but it wasn’t the one most anticipated.
Tua Tagovailoa, coming off the bench to replace an ineffective Jalen Hurts, rescued a moribund Alabama offense and led the Tide to a dramatic 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia in the National Championship Game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. The Tide, which recovered from a 20-7 hole, had a chance to win it in regulation but Andy Pappanastos missed his second field goal attempt of the game.
Rodrigo Blankenship’s 51-yard field goal gave Georgia a 23-20 lead in the extra frame.
But two plays later, after taking a sack, Tagovailoa delivered the throw of his life, hitting DaVonta Smith for the 41-yard, championship-winning touchdown. It was his third touchdown pass of the night.
It was the Tide’s fifth national title under Nick Saban, who matched the legendary Bear Bryant for most ever with six overall.
It was as staggering as it was dramatic.
Alabama’s offense was stuck in neutral, held to just four first downs and no points in the opening half. Saban told ESPN neither Hurts nor the receivers were getting it done. His tone suggested a change was coming.
Tagovailoa took over. His first drive went 3-and-out, just like the Tide’s final four drives of the first half.
But he ignited Alabama on his second chance. He escaped a sure sack and rambled for a first down. He connected on four passes, the final one a 6-yard strike to Henry Ruggs III for the Tide’s first points of the night. It was just the beginning.
Jake Fromm, Georgia’s true freshman quarterback, immediately answered with an 80-yard touchdown to extend the Dawgs’ lead to 20-7, but Tagovailoa led the Tide on three scoring drives.
The key play was 4th-and-4 at Georgia’s 7. Tagovailoa scanned the field before finding Ridley crossing across the back of the end zone. Pappanastos’ extra point tied it at 20.
The Tide weren’t done. After forcing another punt, Georgia’s fourth consecutive of the second half, Bama took over at its 35. Tagovailoa picked up a critical third-down conversion by driving for a tough 4-yard run.
From there, the Tide worked the clock down to 3 seconds, sending Pappanastos on to kick the winning field goal. He missed.
But the Tide recovered. Again.
Critics questioned Alabama all season. The Tide answered. The reign continues.