- Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images
- Alabama took home the college football national championship with an overtime win against the Georgia Bulldogs, 26-23.
- The key to Alabama’s victory was backup quarterback and true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who provided a spark to the Tide’s offense after starter Jalen Hurts struggled out of the gate.
- Tagovailoa threw three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
- After the game, Saban gave a simple explanation as to why he decided to make the risky switch at quarterback.
The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2017 college football national championship on Monday night, beating the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime, 26-23, in Atlanta at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
It was a game filled with big moments. But undoubtedly the biggest decision in the game came at halftime, when Alabama head coach Nick Saban choose to replace starting quarterback Jalen Hurts with true freshman Tua Tagovailoa after the Tide got out to a flat start on offense.
When Tagovailoa came out for Alabama’s first drive of the second half, many were left confused by the move. Hurts was 25-2 in his career as a starter, and the idea of giving a true freshman his first competitive playing time in the national championship against one of the best defenses in college football seems like a recipe for disaster.
But Saban knew what he was doing.
Tagovailoa led Alabama to their first points of the game and eventually he threw the game-winning touchdown in overtime to seal the title for the Tide.
While speaking with ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi after the game, Saban gave a simple explanation for why he decided to make the switch at quarterback after Hurts’ play had carried the team so far in the season.
“Well, I just thought we had to throw the ball in the game, and I thought he could do it better,” Saban said of Tagovailoa. “And he did.”
You can watch Saban’s comments below.
It’s true – in his first half performance, Hurts completed just three passes for 21 yards and failed to get the Alabama offense moving in any significant way against the stout defense of the Georgia Bulldogs. But once the Crimson Tide made the switch, their offense came alive, and Tagovailoa would finish the game with 166 yards and three touchdowns in just a half game’s worth of work.
For his part, Hurts was extremely gracious about his benching for the good of the team. As Hurts would later say, his message to Tagovailoa before taking the field for the second half was one of confidence.
“Play your game. Ball.”
He did, and now the Crimson Tide are once again national champions because of it.