America, meet Tua Tagovailoa, college football’s newest superstar.
Alabama’s true freshman quarterback took over at halftime and led the Crimson Tide to 29 second half and overtime points, including a game-winning, 41-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith for a 26-23 overtime win to beat Georgia for the College Football Playoff National Championship at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
“Was that a good game or what,” said Alabama coach Nick Saban, who won his sixth national title.
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Georgia took a 23-20 lead with a field goal on their first possession of the overtime. But that allowed the Tide to win it with a touchdown. Alabama’s overtime possession didn’t start out well. Tagovailoa was sacked for a 16-yard loss. But on the next play he hit another true freshman, Smith, streaking down the left side of the field for the game-winning score.
Tagovailoa was 14 of 24 for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
Alabama had a chance to win it on the last play of regulation but Andy Pappanastos’ 37-yard field goal attempt hooked wide left.
No. 4 Alabama tied the game at 20-20 with just under four minutes remaining on Tagovailoa’s seven-yard scoring pass to Calvin Ridley on fourth down.
After a defensive-minded first-half dud, the College Football Playoff National Championship turned in some fireworks early in the second half.
After Alabama scored for the first time to pull within six, Georgia’s true freshman quarterback Jake Fromm hit receiver Mecole Hardman down field for an 80-yard touchdown to give the Bulldogs a 20-7 lead in the third quarter.
Alabama replaced its experienced sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts with Tagovailoa on the first offensive series of the second half.
Hurts was 3 for 8 for 21 yards passing in the first half. He led the Tide with 47 yards rushing on six carries.
Alabama went three-and-out on that first possession in the second half. The freshman stayed in the game for Bama’s next possession and led a 56-yard scoring drive. He was 5 of 6 passing, including a six-yard touchdown pass to Henry Ruggs to pull Alabama to within 13-7.
No. 3 Georgia had taken a somewhat commanding 13-0 lead over Alabama at halftime with a 1-yard touchdown run by Hardman with seven seconds left before the break.
The Bulldogs outgained the Tide 223 yards to 95 in the first half. Georgia had 16 first downs compared with four for Alabama.
Fromm completed 16 of 32 passes for 232 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions. Michel led all rushers with 98 yards on 14 carries.
Georgia struck first in the game. The Bulldogs took a 3-0 lead on Rodrigo Blankenship’s 41-yard field goal.
The score was set up by Michel’s 26-yard run down to the Alabama 25 on a 3rd and 20 at the end of the first quarter. Both teams had fewer than 70 yards in the first quarter.
The Zac Brown Band, along with David Walker and High Praise, sang the national anthem together.
The president was shown attempting to sing along with the anthem, but at the moment he was on screen he was hitting every third or fourth word.
The Crimson Tide was favored by 3.5 points with an over/under of 45 after an opening line of 4.5 and 46 total points from BetDSI.eu Sportsbook.
According to geotagged Twitter data culled by betonline.ag last week, the country is pulling for Georgia over Alabama (232,687 to 156,402). But Alabama won more states. The data was compiled using tweets containing team-specific hashtags such as #rolltide and #godawgs, so this isn’t exactly Nate Silver level data.
There is a political corollary here or string of jokes but let’s just watch the last college football game in peace.