Alabama stuns Georgia in overtime for national championship

Dabo Swinney

Dabo Swinney

Freshman QB Tug Tagovailoa took a bad sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards.

Tagovailoa found Smith wide open for a 41-yard touchdown pass to clinch the title and a 26-23 win for Alabama against Georgia.

Replacing a starting quarterback in a national championship is nearly unheard of, but for Alabama, it was the difference it needed. "Who would've thought I would've ever been here right now in this moment?"

Where does Tagovailoa go from here? He did this all after halftime, against a talented Georgia defense that stifled the Alabama offense throughout the first half. Alabama head coach Nick Saban decided to make a change after a disastrous first half in which Alabama fell behind 13-0 and benched normal starter Jalen Hurts.

Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36 yard field goal at the end of regulation that would have won the game.

Georgia enjoyed a virtual home-field advantage at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, playing in front of a rowdy crowd hoping for the school's first title since 1980.

This team won despite losing four first-round draft picks and seven defensive players who were picked within the first four rounds.

None of those plays phased him, even on the biggest of stages.

That pass arguably could have been the fulfillment of a promise Tagovailoa made to Smith at last year's U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

Running back Cam Akers will be one of the most fun players to watch in college football next year.

"I wasn't nervous at all", Smith said while reflecting on his emotions as the ball flew through the air. Tagovailoa led Alabama to two touchdowns and two field goals to erase the 13-point deficit. He completed 14-of-26 passes for 166 yards and left everyone wondering why Saban hadn't turned to him before.

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On the Bulldogs' final drive of the first half, they drove the length of the field for the game's first touchdown.

The Horned Frogs play Ohio State in September, which will be a good litmus test for whether they'll be able to compete for the Big 12 with first-year starter Shawn Robinson at quarterback.

"Jalen and Tua have a phenomenal relationship", tight end Hale Hentges said. Those two are really best friends. "But I'm just here to support Jalen".

The words "I hate to lose" left his mouth all season.

For a team and head coach so entrenched in The Process and all that it takes to be a champion, stardom is not supposed to come like this. Because of that, he could feel nothing but happiness when the confetti flew down after the touchdown.

In a thinner SEC East, the Gamecocks have a good chance to win double-digit games behind third-year starter Jake Bentley at quarterback. "That's what we did as a team". Tagovailoa had thrown only 53 passes all season, nearly exclusively in garbage time of Alabama's numerous blowout victories, but Saban put his faith in the untested freshman anyway. The low came when Tagovailoa threw a peculiar interception on what looked like a designed run call. Add the nation's No. 1 recruiting class to that foundation, and nobody will want to cross the Bulldogs, who gave Alabama all it could handle and then some in Atlanta.

"If you've got to go in, if your number's called, then you've got to do what you've got to do to give the team the best placement...to give the team the best opportunity to win", Tagovailoa said".

Tonight, it was making a crucial quarterback change to get an offense back on track.

Quarterback Deondre Francois should be back to full health, and with new coach Willie Taggart, the Seminoles have a ton of talent to unleash.

Tagovailoa's parents, Diane and Galu, told Sports Illustrated two years ago that Tuanigamanuolepola, the oldest of their four kids, slept as a child with a football in his arms.

A competition was bound to occur at some point, but it seemed impossible that it would play out in real time during the national championship.

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