Georgia took it to Alabama early on. The Bulldogs were able to move the ball against Jeremy Pruitt’s defense, both on the ground and through the air. The story was the Alabama offense — or the lack there of.
Jalen Hurts couldn’t get anything going through the air, missing a couple of early opportunities for touchdowns on the opening series. It was mostly three and outs for the Tide in the first half as Georgia opened with a 13-0 lead.
Nick Saban made the bold call at halftime to bench Hurts in favor of freshman Tua Tagovailoa. The results were instant. Tua led a perfect opening drive out of the break, getting Alabama on the board for the first time all night. Suddenly, the dynamic of the game had changed.
However, the freshman quarterback on the other side had an answer. It was Jake Fromm coming back with a deep strike to Mecole Hardman. That pass went the distance, taking Alabama’s newfound momentum right back.
After trading interceptions, Alabama added a field goal and got a stop. Tagovailoa wasn’t able to do anything with that chance, though. Alabama would punt back to Georgia as time expired in the 3rd quarter.
Georgia held a 20-10 lead to open the 4th quarter.
After Sony Michel moved the chains a couple of times, Alabama came up with the stop they needed. Nick Saban then turned to another freshman, inserting Najee Harris. He ripped off two huge chunks, flipping the field and getting the Tide into the redzone.
The Georgia defense bent, but it didn’t break. Alabama was forced to kick the field goal, which brought them back to within one score at 20-13 with 9:24 to play.
Pruitt’s defense stepped on on the next drive, stopping Georgia on a key 3rd and 2 to force a punt. Georgia had their shot to put them away, but the focus now shifted once again to the Alabama offense.
A big swing pass to Damien Harris got the drive started. A pass interference call kept it alive a couple of plays later. All of the sudden, Alabama was knocking on the door in the redzone.
Faced with a 3rd and 3 from inside the ten, Harris was stuffed up the middle. With four minutes to play, Saban was faced with a 4th and 4. He chose to go for it, leaning on Tua one more time. They went with the empty formation — and the freshman found Calvin Ridley for the equalizer.
Georgia answered with a three and out, giving Alabama a golden opportunity at yet another national championship.
They took it, getting another big run from Harris. A big facemask penalty only made things worse for Georgia. Tua converted on 3rd and 3 with under a minute to play, getting Alabama into chip-shot field goal range.
It was a 36 yard attempt from dead center and Andy Pappanastos hooked it. Overtime, it was.
Georgia came out running the ball, but didn’t get far. Two runs set up 3rd and 6, and Fromm took a long sack to set up a 50+ yard field goal. Stud kicker Rodrigo Blankenship drilled it.
Alabama could win it here with a touchdown — and they did just that. Tua hit Devonta Smith for the dagger — and the title. Alabama won it 26-23, just like that.
Watch Tua look of the safety here for the game winner. That’s scary-good stuff out of the freshman.
Watch Tua look off the safety. Then the arm. pic.twitter.com/CwioxhQ2Er— SEC Country Alabama (@SECCountryBama) January 9, 2018
- The entire game changed when Tua Tagovailoa entered the game for Jalen Hurts. He opened things up for Alabama down the field, looking more decisive and more aggressive than Hurts. I’m not sure why it took Saban all season to get to this point, but the results were clear. This kid is going to be an issue for the SEC in 2018.
- Georgia did all of this in year two of Kirby Smart. They currently hold the No. 1 recruiting class in the country. This one stings, but I’ll bet they’re back pretty soon.
- Alabama played a freshman quarterback, running back and left tackle down the stretch of this game. That’s terrifying.
What stood out to you?