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ATLANTA — A year ago in the final game of the season, Nick Saban thought he had won his fifth national title at Alabama behind an incredible comeback from a true freshman quarterback.
Turns out, that storyline had to wait a year.
Crimson Tide freshman signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa came off the bench to start the second half and cap off an epic comeback that won’t ever be forgotten around Tuscaloosa, beating SEC rival Georgia 26-23 in overtime on Monday night at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to deliver the school’s 13th recognized national championship.
Tagovailoa was a clear spark for the Tide from the moment he jogged onto the field out of the locker room to replace ineffective sophomore starter Jalen Hurts (3-of-8 passing, 47 yards rushing), who was part of the reason why the team was shutout in the first half. The five-star freshman from Hawaii was dynamic with the ball in his hands, scrambling out of near sacks numerous times (to go with 27 yards rushing) and throwing for 166 yards and three touchdown passes.
That second to last of those two scores came with just 3:21 left on the clock after he evaded the rush on fourth down to find superstar wideout Calvin Ridley waiting in the middle of the end zone for a seven yard strike. That tied the game at 20-all and sent a chill down the naturally pro-Georgia crowd who witnessed an all to familiar Atlanta sports moment in the process.
Bama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed the 36 yarder wide right as time expired but Tagovailoa didn’t mind, finding DeVonta Smith from 41 yards out to send up the confetti for the Tide in one of the most indelible moments in college football on the grandest stage the sport has to offer.
The story was a familiar one for the most part up until those final few minutes for the Bulldogs.
True freshman quarterback Jake Fromm made several clutch throws and the team got some incredible stops from linebacker Roquan Smith but it wasn’t enough in the end as the team played their second straight overtime game of this College Football Playoff. The former looked far from a youngster despite throwing two interceptions (one an arm punt on the second play of the game, the other off a tipped ball) and finished with a career high 32 attempts through the air to rack up 232 yards. Fromm was a big reason why the team was able to move the ball after a tough night on the ground.
The normally reliable UGA run game found things much harder to get going than it did against Oklahoma in their semifinal win out at the Rose Bowl. Sony Michel did rip off a 26 yard run to help keep a scoring drive alive early but was otherwise held in check (98 yards) along with teammate Nick Chubb (25 yards) as the team couldn’t hold onto a 20-7 lead in the second half.
The win keeps Saban a perfect 12-0 against his former assistants after beating Kirby Smart in what might be the most satisfying victory of the coach’s career. Not only did the Alabama legend tie Bear Bryant with sixth national title ring, he kept the dynasty rolling with the program’s fifth championship in eight seasons. After last year’s heartbreak with one second left on the clock, this time it was Alabama who reigned supreme to cap off the 2017 season in thrilling fashion with an ending that nobody will forget in the decades to come.
Tags: Calvin Ridley, Nick Chubb
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Nick Saban has won a handful of national championships, but what better way to move into a tie for first place on the all-time leaderboard with the one and only Paul “Bear” Bryant than by cooking up the most unique national championship coaching job of his career to date.’
For the first time with the national championship on the line, Saban was going up against a former assistant coach. As the previous 11 matchups between teacher and student have gone, Saban once again came out on top of a former understudy, Georgia’s Kirby Smart. But boy oh boy did Saban have to try a few new things in order to get it. For the first time, Alabama was flustered and overmatched in a championship game. Even the last two years against Clemson were back-and-forth types of games, but Georgia was playing like a true home team hungry to end a national title drought in front of their home fans. Alabama’s offense was non-existent for the first 30 minutes, leading Saban to make a drastic call to change his quarterbacks at halftime and roll with a true freshman in Tua Tagovailoa.
Jalen Hurts had been Alabama’s starting quarterback for the past two seasons, but a rough first half performance led to Alabama digging a 13-0 hole. Saban needed a spark, so for the first time in a championship game, he made the switch in hopes of sparking something on offense. After a rough first drive, Tagovailoa came through in wild fashion. Tagovailoa connected on 14-of-24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yard pass to Devonta Smith just one play after being taken down for a loss of 16 yards on a sack. Amazingly, Saban’s freshman quarterback looked like a freshman making a freshman mistake only to shrug it off and connect on a pass that will go down in Alabama’s storied history as one of the best in program history.
Saban is now tied with Bryant for the most national championships in the AP poll era with six apiece. Saban had already cemented his spot among college football’s hierarchy of coaches before Monday night, but for anyone who was still holding back on suggesting Saban belongs in the conversation for best coaches of all time, there is no more room to allow that conversation to be avoided. Saban is absolutely one of the best coaches of all time with six national titles to his name at two different schools (one at LSU, five at Alabama). But for anyone who does want to hold off on the Saban conversation, what more could you possibly need? Do you need Alabama to win another national title?
If you do, then watch out. Alabama was fueled Monday night by a freshman quarterback (Tagovailoa), a freshman running back (Najee Harris) and a freshman wide receiver (Smith). Alabama’s not going away anytime soon, because Saban has established a factory of college football talent in Tuscaloosa that is built to compete, have players step into big roles at any moment, and win.
Saban has won national titles with crippling defense. He has won a national title with an offense coming alive in a shootout. Now, Saban has won with freshmen leading the way. And ogh yeah, he also did it without winning a division title.
There will come a day when Saban decides enough is enough and he settles into retirement with time away from a sideline, but there does not appear to be an end in sight to the Saban dynasty in Tuscaloosa. Until Saban calls it a career, Alabama will continue to cement Saban’s legacy as the greatest coach of all time.
Tags: Nick Saban, Devonta Smith
Toward the end of the third quarter of the national championship game in Atlanta, Alabama freshman defensive back Kyriq McDonald required medical attention after reportedly collapsing on the sideline. The reason for the collapse was not reported, but he was taken off the sideline on a stretcher to go seek further medical attention.
Alabama DB Kyriq McDonald attended to on sideline after collapsing https://t.co/w75QtITNS6
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) January 9, 2018
Amazingly, the game continued to play on while all of this was happening on the Alabama sideline. The explanation for the decision to keep the game moving was because the medical treatment was happening far enough away from the field of play, so it would not interfere with the game.
McDonald was said to be awake and conscious after some initial medical response on the sideline as he was taken away. If we hear anything more on this situation, we will update this post accordingly.
Tags: Kyriq McDonald
Alabama linebacker Mekhi Brown was fortunate not to be ejected from the game after appearing to throw a punch at a Georgia player, but he may be lucky if Nick Saban even lets him back in the game.
After getting called for an unsportsmanlike penalty at the end of a play (cameras from ESPN’s First-and-10 cam appeared to catch the infraction that could have or should have led to an ejection), Brown appeared to be calmed down on the sideline by Saban and another assistant coach. But as things seemed to settle down, Brown appeared to have some words to say to somebody on the Alabama sideline. It is unclear from the video exactly who he was directing his frustrations at, but he needed to be held back by others on the Alabama sideline.
Mekhi Brown losing his cool on the field and on the sideline https://t.co/tKNelm76tC
— Kevin McGuire (@KevinOnCFB) January 9, 2018
The tension may be getting to anyone on the Alabama sideline. They are not accustomed to being down 10 points as the game is about to shift to the fourth quarter of the national championship game. It’s been a frustrating evening so far for Alabama, and this proves sometimes the tempers boil over.
Tags: Mekhi Brown
Given the opportunity to go home, Ron Dugans said thanks, but no thanks.
Reports had surfaced over the past couple of weeks that new Florida State head coach Willie Taggart had offered the Miami wide receivers coach a spot on his FSU staff and the assistant was giving it serious consideration. The fact that Dugans was born in Tallahassee, played his college football for the Seminoles and started his coaching career at his alma mater certainly made the offer an enticing one.
Dugans also served as Taggart’s receivers coach in 2014-15, adding further enticement to the opportunity.
In the end, however, Dugans opted to remain with the Hurricanes, with UM athletic director Blake James confirming to the Miami Herald in a text message that “[h]e is staying.”
The 40-year-old Dugans has spent the past two seasons as Mark Richt‘s receivers coach at The U. He also holds the title of passing-game coordinator for the ‘Canes.
During the first-ever early signing period last month, Dugans played a pivotal role in three touted receivers signing with Miami.
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