The University of Alabama Crimson Tide have won yet another NCAA football national championship after defeating the University of Georgia 26-23 in overtime on Monday Jan. 8.
This win is the program’s 17th claimed national title and it is their fifth title in nine seasons.
The star of the show was true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who up until this point in the season had only played clean-up minutes for the Tide. But after the Alabama offense struggled in the first half, starting quarterback Jalen Hurts was benched in favor of Tagovailoa.
Tagovailoa came in and took over the game, throwing three touchdown passes and 166 yards on his way to claiming a national title for his school and the game’s offensive MVP honors. The win came on a 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime to DeVonta Smith.
This was Alabama’s third straight season playing for a national title, the last two against the University of Clemson Tigers. Alabama won the first matchup in a shootout, and subsequently lost the second one in a similar way, with DeShaun Watson of Clemson throwing a touchdown pass with one second left to win the game for the Tigers.
“I could not believe it,” Nick Saban, the head coach at Alabama said. “There’s lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, ‘Don’t waste the feeling.’ They sure didn’t, the way they played tonight.”
After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard, tie-breaking field goal in the final seconds of the game, his second miss of the night, the game went into overtime with Georgia receiving the first offensive possession. Georgia kicker Rodrigo Blankenship kicked a 51-yard field goal to cap the drive and give the Bulldogs a 23-20 lead.
Tagovailoa was sacked for a loss of 16 yards on the first play from Alabama. But on the next play he delivered the game winning pass to Smith, securing the win for the Tide.
Tagovailoa was reportedly set to transfer to UCLA to play for head coach Chip Kelly after the season had come to a close, but Alabama may have a quarterback controversy on their hands during the offseason.
This marks the sixth national title for Saban, which matches the record for championships as a head coach, set by former Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant.
Georgia freshman quarterback Jake Fromm had the Bulldogs on top for most of the game, throwing for 232 yards and one 80-yard touchdown to Mecole Hardman.
“I mean, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they’ll tell you because that’s a really good defense he just went against,” said Kirby Smart, head coach for Georgia.
Smart spent 11 seasons with Saban, including eight in Tuscaloosa with the Crimson Tide. This win makes Saban 12-0 against former assistants.