Nick Saban has done it again. And he's got a gutsy quarterback change to thank for his sixth national championship.
But Saban made a quarterback change at the intermission, benching 25-2 starter Jalen Hurts, to put true freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the game. Saban said the Tide needed a passing game in order to come back from 13 points down. He was right -- and Tagovailoa delivered. The Hawaiian product threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns in the second half and overtime, including a 41-yard touchdown pass to win the game, in the bottom half of the first overtime period.
Tagovailoa took a sack on first down, losing 16 yards, and putting Alabama in a 2nd and 26 predicament they figured unlikely to wrestle out of. After having their kicker miss a potential game-winner as time expired, a game-tying field goal to force a second overtime was no guarantee. It appeared the Goliath was on the ropes. And then the freshman quarterback showed uncommon poise, looking to his right to freeze the safety, and throwing a rope to a wide open receiver for the game-winning touchdown. Devonta Smith hauled it in as he crossed the goal line, and the celebration was on for the Crimson Tide.
Georgia built a 13-0 lead in the first half on the strength of excellent defense, and their own freshman quarterback playing well enough to get the job done. Jake Fromm paced the offense, and threw a touchdown pass in the 3rd quarter to re-establish the Bulldogs 13-point lead. But a fluky interception later in the 3rd, off an Alabama defenders helmet, helped grease the skids for the Tide's comeback.
Alabama had a chance to win the game in regulation, but Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal as time expired, forcing the game into overtime. Tagovailoa tied the game in the final four minutes, with a 4th-down touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley, knotting the game at 20, and setting up the thrilling finish.
Alabama now has 17 national championships, all-time, and it's Saban's sixth title. That number ties him with former Alabama coach Paul 'Bear' Bryant for the most all-time in the poll era.