Alabama went into halftime of the national championship game trailing Georgia by 13 points, but a switch to Tua Tagovailoa, a true freshman, at quarterback proved prophetic as he led them to a shocking 26-23 victory in overtime, throwing a 41-yard pass to DeVonta Smith to seal the win.
The victory, which was as much a Georgia collapse as it was an Alabama triumph, represents Coach Nick Saban’s sixth career national championship and his second of the playoff era. Saban’s sixth title ties him with legendary Alabama coach Paul “Bear” Bryant for the most championships in college football history.
Tagovailoa, who came on in relief of a struggling Jalen Hurts, completed 13 of 23 passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns, while running for 27 yards. He outdueled Georgia’s true freshman, Jake Fromm, who passed for 232 yards.
Alabama had a chance to win at the end of regulation, but a 36-yard field goal attempt by Andy Pappanastos missed wide left, sending the game to overtime. In Georgia’s first try in overtime, a sack of Jake Fromm led to Rodrigo Blankenship having to attempt a field goal from 51 yards. The steady kicker for the Bulldogs crushed the kick, putting the Bulldogs temporarily on top 23-20.
Tagovailoa was sacked by Georgia’s Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy for a loss of 16 yards on Alabama’s first play in overtime. But he found Smith sprinting past the Bulldogs’ secondary on the next play and hit him with a perfect pass for the touchdown and the victory.
Georgia’s rushing attack, which had been so devastating against Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, was not nearly as effective this time around, rushing for 133 yards thanks to Alabama’s stout front-seven.
The national championship is Alabama’s 17th, while Georgia is still seeking the team’s second title after having won it all in 1980.
Joe Drape: This is the way national title games should go: Tua Tagovailoa with a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith. Nick Saban says it all after the game: “Is it that a good game or what?” Why the change, Nick? “I thought we needed to throw the ball and he could do it better.”
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Here’s a drive-by-drive look at how Alabama won the national championship:
Q4, 0:00: Alabama misses field goal. We’re headed to overtime.
Alabama had a chance to win the game on a 36-yard field goal attempt by Andy Pappanastos, but the kicker missed wide left, sending the game to overtime.
Alabama’s drive had started with Najee Harris being knocked for a 1-yard loss. Harris then took the ball to the right side and very nearly got brought down at the line of scrimmage before stumbling for an 11-yard gain and a first down.
Tua Tagovailoa hit Calvin Ridley for a 9-yard gain, which had 15 yards tacked onto it thanks to a face mask by Malkom Parrish, then got 6 yards by running the ball. A handoff to Harris went for no gain, setting up a 3rd-and-3, which Tagovailoa took care of himself with a run to the left side where he fought through tacklers for the first down.
Alabama ran the clock down before sending Pappanastos out for the attempt to win the game, but he missed badly.
Drape: Got to feel bad for Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos. He had missed 2 of his past 3 kicks entering the game. When he lined up for a 35-yard field goal early in the game, his attempt split the uprights. But Alabama was called for a false start, pushing Pappanastos back an extra five yards. He missed. It foreshadowed perhaps the kick he had to win the game from 36 yards with .03 seconds left. He hooked it left. Pappanastos, a senior, was just 16 of 21 on the season.
4Q, 2:55: Three-and-out for Georgia gives Alabama another shot.
With the game all tied up, Georgia had a chance to retake control, but they went three-and-out, with Jake Fromm’s third down pass sailing well out of D’Andre Swift’s reach. The Bulldogs punted the ball away and Alabama has a chance to win the game with just under three minutes to play.
4Q, 3:49: Alabama ties it up.
Tua Tagovailoa did not look like a true freshman when he hit Calvin Ridley for a 7-yard touchdown pass on 4th-and-4 that along with the extra point tied this game at 20-20.
Alabama got a quick start on a screen pass to Damien Harris that the running back caught in the backfield before picking up 17 yards. A short run by Tagovailoa, and an incomplete pass set up a 3rd-and-9, which Georgia gave them by way of a pass interference call that resulted in a 35-yard penalty.
Given fresh life, the Crimson Tide picked up another 20 yards on a pass from Tagovailoa to Jerry Jeudy and nearly got a touchdown on a pass to Calvin Ridley on the next play before the ball fell to the ground.
Tagovailoa ran to Georgia’s 6-yard line, Harris got hit for a 1-yard loss, Alabama went for it on 4th-and-4 and then Tagovailoa hit Ridley for the game-tying score.
Drape: Great third down stuff by Georgia’s Thompson. Bama is 14 of 17 on 4th down. They went for it. And … Big Brother Ridley hauls it in for Tagovailoa. So now it’s all tied up at 20-20. Give it to the kid quarterback: he keeps his poise and drills it into traffic. Big Brother Ridley, you are back in the top bunk.
4Q, 7:10: Georgia stalls again, giving Alabama a chance.
Georgia is not able to keep its offense on the field, which is giving Alabama a lot of opportunities to get back into this game.
A direct snap to Nick Chubb fooled no one and the running back was hit for a 1-yard loss. Georgia then got 9 yards from Mecole Hardman on a sweep to the right. Sony Michel went up the middle to try to extend the drive but he was stopped immediately, forcing a punt.
The Crimson Tide now have the ball down seven points with just over seven minutes remaining in the game.
Drape: Georgia’s offensive coordinator Jim Chaney got too cute on this drive. Two Wild (Dawg) calls that went nowhere. Let Fromm win or lose it. He’s gotten you that far. Seven minutes left. Now, it’s Georgia’s defensive line against the freshman quarterback. We’ll see if Nick Saban is worth his $7 million a year here.
4Q, 9:24: Another field goal for Alabama cuts into Georgia’s lead.
The Crimson Tide would have liked a touchdown, but after a pass was nearly intercepted in the end zone they should be happy with a field goal that made the score 20-13.
Alabama was steadily moving down the field, taking what Georgia would give them before Najee Harris uncorked a 36-yard run to the left side of the field, fighting past tacklers all the way.
Harris had another short run before Tua Tagovailoa just missed Jerry Jeudy on a throw to the end zone, setting up a 3rd-and-8 from Georgia’s 12-yard line. Georgia burned a timeout and then Tagovailoa took another shot into the end zone, just missing Jeudy on a ball that was very nearly intercepted by Dominick Sanders.
That brought out Andy Pappanastos, who hit from 30 yards out to pull within seven points.
Drape: These two teams are hitting harder the deeper into the game we go. Harris was punishing on his 36-yard run. On the big 3rd-and-8 from the 12-yard line, Saban lets Tagovailoa throw it. It looked like it was intercepted by Sanders, who already has 16 interceptions, but it doesn’t stand up to review. In Vegas, you are still ahead if you took the Dawgs plus 6.
4Q, 11:39: Georgia starts working the clock.
Starting the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead, Georgia was clearly thinking about the clock and they started their drive with four consecutive running plays by Sony Michel, accounting for 31 yards. Michel was spelled by Nick Chubb, who ran twice for 6 yards. But on 3rd-and-4, Nick Fromm dropped back to pass and was crushed to the ground by Raekwon Davis for a 9-yard sack, forcing the Bulldogs to punt and keeping Alabama in the game.
3Q, 0:08: Georgia’s defense keeps Tagovailoa in check.
Alabama got a quick first down with a 16-yard run by Bo Scarbrough, but a 7-yard pass from Tua Tagovailoa to Calvin Ridley was followed by a run by Scarbrough for no gain and a pass from Tagovailoa to Scarbrough for 1 yard, leading to a punt.
Drape: This title game delivered what it promised: two hard-nosed teams from the best conference in college football, the S.E.C. Every series matters. I still can’t believe Nick Saban replaced his 25-2, two title-game starter, with a freshman.
Q3, 1:55: Fromm’s third-down magic runs out.
After the kickoff, Georgia got 15 yards for free thanks to an unnecessary roughness call against Alabama’s Mekhi Brown, who continued to rant and rave on the sideline when he was pulled out of the game.
Nick Chubb did not get far on two runs, giving Jake Fromm yet another big third down opportunity, and the freshman capitalized with a 13-yard pass to Riley Ridley, who has been superb all game.
The third-down magic was nowhere to be found a few plays later on an incomplete pass to Ridley, setting up a Georgia punt.
Q3, 5:15: Alabama cuts into Georgia’s lead.
An Alabama field goal made it 20-10 in Georgia’s favor.
Given a short field thanks to the interception, Alabama ran the ball twice, picking up a first down, and then Tua Tagovailoa took a shot at the end zone with a pass that sailed over the hands of Cam Sims. Tagovailoa was nearly intercepted on second down when a bad drop by Calvin Ridley popped into the air, and then the drive stalled with an incomplete pass on third down.
Andy Pappanastos came out and hit a 43-yard field goal to pull within 10 points.
Drape: Critical drive coming up here. Nick Saban rolled the dice with Tua Tagovailoa. Briefly looked like a genius, but ultimately gets an interception by the freshman, and eventually a field goal. Bad penalty sets up the Dawgs. A touchdown puts this out of reach.
3Q, 6:21: Alabama’s defense takes the ball back.
Alabama answered an interception with one of their own. On the first play of Georgia’s drive, Jake Fromm threw to his left, had it deflect off the helmet of a defensive lineman, and then fall into the hands of Raekwon Davis for the turnover.
3Q, 6:32: Tagovailoa throws into trouble.
Not wanting Jake Fromm to get all the fun, Tua Tagovailoa again threw deep on the first play of a drive, but this one fell incomplete just in front of DeVonta Smith. On second down he rolled out to his left and forced a bad pass down the sideline, which was intercepted by Georgia’s Deandre Baker. As good as Tagovailoa looked on the previous drive, the pick was exactly what you would expect from a true freshman pushed into such a difficult circumstance.
3Q, 6:52: Georgia answers with an 80-yard touchdown.
Alabama had made it a football game with Tua Tagovailoa’s thrilling touchdown drive, and their special teams piled on by pinning Georgia down at their own 7-yard line to start their next drive. But Jake Fromm was not intimidated. Fromm’s 80-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman made the score 20-7 in Georgia’s favor.
Fromm started the drive by immediately picking up a first down with a 14-yard pass over the middle to Terry Godwin, but Nick Chubb gave 8 yards of that back when Anthony Averett dropped him deep in the backfield.
Chubb ran up the middle for 7 yards, getting the Bulldogs to 3rd-and-11, and Fromm aggressively threw deep to Hardman on the sideline. The sophomore wide receiver fought past the coverage for the long touchdown and the play stood up to a review by officials.
Drape: Wow! I say it again because we are a public forum. But Fromm to Hardman for 80 yards on 3rd and 18 is pretty spectacular. Saban, who some of our readers say never panics, has to be a bit puckered now. Still, it’s a great game. Bring on Tua Tagovailoa!
3Q, 8:52: And just like that, Alabama is back in it.
Tua Tagovailoa showed why Nick Saban put him in. The true freshman led a drive that was far more impressive than anything Jalen Hurts had offered, and he got the Crimson Tide their first touchdown of the game, narrowing Georgia’s lead to 13-7.
He started with beautiful deep pass to Calvin Ridley that nearly went for a 44-yard touchdown, but the ball was just out Ridley’s hands and it fell incomplete. On the next play he saw no openings and fought for a 3-yard gain, lowering his shoulder into a defender at the tail end of the play.
On 3rd-and-7 the pass protection was broken down and he cut to the right of the field before cheating back to the left for a 9-yard gain, and then picked up 39 more yards with a completion to Robert Foster and two to Henry Ruggs III.
With a 1st-and-goal from Georgia’s 6-yard line, Tagovailoa again found Ruggs for the touchdown, dramatically changing the landscape of this game.
Drape: Nice Alabama drive keyed by Tua Tagovailoa. His third down scramble was the key play. Chris Fowler says we have a “Freshman Quarterback Duel.” Hurts is the first one on the field to congratulate his rival on the touchdown. The balance inches back to Nick as a genius, but I’m doubling down on panic.
3Q, 10:51: Tide’s defense picks up the intensity.
Alabama’s offense may have looked slow coming out of the locker room, but the Tide’s defense was clearly fired up, forcing consecutive plays of negative yards before Georgia’s drive fizzled out with a 4-yard run by D’Andre Swift. The Bulldogs had the ball for just 93 seconds of clock time, but the team’s fans were left angry about a missed face mask call on Swift’s second-down run which went for minus-8 yards.
3Q, 13:03: Alabama switches quarterbacks, but gets same result.
Alabama started the half with Tua Tagovailoa at quarterback rather than Jalen Hurts. It was a somewhat surprising change, which means both teams are playing true freshmen at quarterback.
Tagovailoa’s opening drive did not make much of a change in the offense as he ran for 4 yards and passed for 2 before a sack left them with a 3rd-and-8, effectively ending their drive. Alabama had a short injury delay while Jonah Williams was treated on the field, but they eventually punted the ball away.
Drape: Nick Saban is either panicking or a genius. He’s put in Tagovailoa in at quarterback, a freshman, after saying it wasn’t Jalen Hurts’s fault the Tide struggled in the first half. I vote for panicking. He has decided that he can’t stop Georgia, and needs to score with them. Hurts is 25-2. At least we know now that Robo-Coach Saban is human after all. Kirby Smart has gotten under Nick’s skin.
Here’s the view from Vegas:
Here’s what’s going on in Las Vegas, according to our friends at William Hill. In the second half, Bama is giving 6 points, which means the money is coming in and expects the Crimson Tide to outscore the Dawgs by 6 points in this next half. The over/under for second half points is 23. So the smart money expects a strong half from Alabama. If you are a betting man, like me, I’d take Georgia plus 6 and the under for the second half. An interesting note: In January, you could have gotten Georgia to win the championship at odds of 40-1. Bama? 3-1.
2Q, 0:07: Bulldogs head into the locker room with a 13-0 lead.
Georgia did not have much time to work with, but they had all three timeouts remaining, so they decided to be aggressive heading into halftime. It paid off, with Mecole Hardman taking a direct-snap into the end zone from 1 yard out for the first touchdown of the game and a 13-0 lead for the Bulldogs.
The drive started with 1:19 remaining in the half, and Jake Fromm immediately found Riley Ridley for a 10-yard gain. Fromm was nearly intercepted a few plays later, but when Alabama’s Anthony Averett failed to get his hands on the ball, the Bulldogs capitalized by getting 14 yards on the ground from Sony Michel on the next play.
An Alabama penalty got Georgia 5 more yards, D’Andre Swift ran for 7 and Fromm, not seeing any good receiving options, pulled the ball down and reeled off a 14-yard run of his own.
With a short field in front of him, Fromm threw aggressively to Terry Godwin for a 16-yard gain near the goal line setting up a 1st-and-goal from the 3. A roughing the passer call got Georgia all the way to the Alabama 1-yard line, and Hardman took the ball on a direct-snap, running into the end zone easily.
Drape: Wonderful call by Georgia offensive coordinator Jim Chaney to run the Wildcat — a snap to Mecole Hardman, who waltzes to the corner. This game is far from over. Nick Saban is frustrated in his halftime interview, but he purposefully doesn’t lay it on quarterback Jalen Hurts. Georgia’s Kirby Smart is understated and says Jake Fromm is making good decisions. Fromm is going to make Dawg fans forget Buck Belue with another half like that (not really). I’m not putting this in the victory column for Georgia yet. Saban and the Tide are too good — see five national championships — but that was a big score to end the half.
Tracy: To go off Joe’s point, the past two national title games — both of which also involved Alabama — were shootouts whose final scores were 35-31 and 45-40. At halftime of those games, the scores were, respectively, 14-7 and 21-7. If past is prologue, the second half will involve substantially more scoring than the first.
2Q, 1:19: Nothing for Alabama.
Alabama’s offense is not doing anything right now. Georgia forced a three-and-out, with the Crimson Tide getting seven yards on a pair of runs before an incomplete pass and a punt completed their drive.
2Q, 2:14: Georgia’s Javon Wims goes to locker room.
A nice punt resulted in Georgia starting from their own 5-yard line, and with so little room to work they settled for two short runs by Nick Chubb before Jake Fromm stepped back into the pocket and found Riley Ridley in the middle of the field for a huge 16-yard completion. It was Ridley’s third big catch of the game, helping somewhat alleviate the concern of Javon Wims having gone into Georgia’s locker room to be evaluated for an injury.
Georgia quickly found itself in another third down situation, but this time Fromm’s throw was well off its mark, skipping to the ground in front of Mecole Hardman.
The Bulldogs were forced to punt, but thanks to Ridley’s catch the field position is not nearly as bad as it could have been.
2Q, 5:15: Tide offense shows some life, but stalls out.
Alabama got a huge start to the drive on a delayed keeper by Jalen Hurts that went for 31 yards, with Georgia seemingly having been caught on their heels. But the Bulldogs quickly made up for that mistake when Davin Bellamy got a huge 6-yard sack on 2nd-and-9. Josh Jacob ran the ball for 5 yards and then the Crimson Tide punted yet again, showing little sign of having figured out Georgia’s defense.
2Q, 7:33: Another Georgia drive ends in a field goal.
Georgia started using all of their weapons and had the team’s best drive of the game, but after failing to get into the end zone after reaching 1st-and-goal, they settled for a 27-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship that increased their lead to 6-0.
Looking to capitalize on getting the ball back so quickly after they had taken the lead, the Bulldogs started things off when Jake Fromm hit D’Andre Swift with a screen pass that went for 15 yards. Runs by Nick Chubb and Fromm picked up a second first down. Then Fromm aggressively challenged the Alabama defense by throwing downfield, and it worked, with Riley Ridley contributing a 23-yard catch-and-run while Javon Wims made a circus catch on the sideline that stood up to an official review.
That set up a 1st-and-goal from Alabama’s 10-yard line, but the Bulldogs stalled out, setting up Blankenship for yet another kick.
Drape: Wow, how big has freshman Jake Fromm been? That was a big throw to Riley Ridley, and even a bigger one to Wims to take them into the red zone. He almost made a freshman mistake on 3rd & 6. The Dawgs should have had 7 there. A 6-0 lead over Alabama is not enough after you’ve pushed them around.
2Q, 12:52: Alabama fails to answer Georgia’s scoring drive.
After a touchback, Alabama started at their own 25 and they answered Georgia’s scoring drive by going absolutely nowhere. Two runs and an incomplete pass generated only 4 yards before the Crimson Tide punted the ball away. Georgia had an injury delay early in the drive when David Marshall, a sophomore linebacker, was slow to get up after a running play before being taken to a medical tent for further evaluation.
Drape: Here is what Alabama was worried about before the game, and is now in a full blown panic. The Georgia defensive front is strong and harassing. They totally owned Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, the Heisman winner. Jalen Hurts looks lost. Unless the Tide opens up a ground game, Hurts is going to be hurting, and the Dawgs are going to be rolling over the Tide.
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2Q, 14:14: Georgia settles for a field goal, and the lead.
At the end of the first quarter, Georgia finally had something working, but they failed to convert on 3rd-and-11 to start the second quarter and Rodrigo Blankenship came out to hit a 41-yard field goal to give the Bulldogs a 3-0 lead.
It took several frustrating attempts to get Georgia’s running game on track, but on a 3rd-and-20 near the end of the first quarter the Bulldogs chose to run the ball and Sony Michel broke free on the right sideline, sprinting for a 26-yard run that woke up Georgia’s offense.
Before Michel’s run it had looked like yet another drive would end in a quick punt. Alabama’s Anthony Averett delivered a huge sack on a 2nd-and-10 play, sending Georgia all the way from Alabama’s 42-yard line to Georgia’s 48-yard line. But despite the Crimson Tide’s powerful front-seven having sniffed out and demolished both Nick Chubb and Michel on most of their previous attempts, Georgia went with a run on the 3rd-and-long and were rewarded with a huge gain, eventually setting up Blankenship’s kick.
Drape: Hot Rod Blankenship, the Dawgs kicker is a helluva story. Him of the Kurt Rambis glasses. He was a preferred walk-on with former Coach Mark Richt. But Kirby Smart was slow to put him on scholarship. He did eventually the day before the Notre Dame game, which Hot Rod won with a field goal. He went for 55-yards against Oklahoma. He may be the difference here. In fact, he already is.
1Q, 6:54: Alabama offense sputters.
After two short plays, Alabama was faced with a 3rd-and-3, and it was fairly obvious that Jalen Hurts would be running the ball. Georgia sniffed the keeper out immediately, easily stopping the quarterback for a loss of one yard. The quiet start to the game continues with Alabama punting the ball away.
Drape: It’s early, but this game is looking promising. Hurts is going to need to run tonight. He’s more Blake Bortles than Drew Brees, and there is nothing wrong with that. But these two staffs have the other measured so far.
1Q, 9:01: Georgia, a great running team, keeps passing.
Through two possessions, Georgia, which ran all over Oklahoma in the Rose Bowl, has passed on every single offensive play. Jake Fromm has completed just 3 of 7 passes for 17 yards as Sony Michel and Nick Chubb have been relegated to decoy work thus far. The strategy is not working as of yet, with Georgia having just one first down to go with one turnover and one punt.
Drape: I like the fact Georgia is wide open. They do have a ground game, but they are challenging Bama’s secondary. As our colleague Marc Tracy pointed out, Jalen Hurts is a game manager. He is there to make good decisions. These are the opening rounds of a heavyweight fight and neither team is backing down.
1Q, 9:54: Tide fails to convert after interception.
Alabama got painfully close to putting the ball in the end zone but they settled for a 40-yard field goal attempt by Andy Pappanastos that missed wide-left, keeping the game scoreless.
The Crimson Tide had started at their own 36-yard line thanks to Tony Brown’s interception, and they made steady progress with their running game, picking up 30 yards on the ground to go with 17 through the air, generating three first downs. Jalen Hurts led the way with two carries for 22 yards.
Hurts then flirted with a touchdown when he found Calvin Ridley wide open in the end zone thanks to broken coverage, but the pass sailed over Ridley’s head, taking away Alabama’s best opportunity.
Pappanastos initially made a 35-yard attempt, but after a penalty he tried for 40 yards and missed badly.
Drape: Couple of things: Nick Saban’s process is unassailable on everything but the field goal kicking game. I hate criticizing Andy Pappanastos; He’s a kid. But look back at Saban’s Alabama years, and he’s never developed a reliable kicker. What I mean by that, is someone who never gets any pub because he makes the kick he’s supposed to. The false start was inexcusable. But this is exactly how they started against Clemson.
1Q, 13:38: Alabama’s defense takes control early.
The Crimson Tide’s defense showed its dominance immediately with an interception on the third play of the game.
Alabama had won the coin toss and chose to defer, which resulted in Georgia receiving the ball to start the game. The ball was kicked out of the end zone for a touchback, which set the Bulldogs up at their own 25-yard line to start.
They got off to a slow start, with Jake Fromm dumping off two quick short passes that accounted for just three yards, but then he tried to be more aggressive, throwing deep to Javon Wims, and had his pass intercepted by Tony Brown.
Joe Drape: Big play to open this slugfest. It was a fine throw by Fromm, but Brown took it away from Wims. Hard nosed play. Let’s expect a lot of them. These are two top-10 defenses.
Trump takes the field for national anthem.
President Trump took the field shortly before the playing of the national anthem to what seemed to be mainly cheers. He stayed for the anthem, and left before the teams took the field. (In college football, unlike the N.F.L., teams nearly always stay in the locker rooms for the anthem.) These are two fanbases that, like their teams’ coaches, are frankly probably more focused on the upcoming game than on the president’s presence.
Published at Tue, 09 Jan 2018 06:02:31 +0000