History repeats, so could Alabama
Just like last season, the Tide turns after a quarterback change
ATLANTA— In a dramatic twist on last season’s national championship game, Jalen Hurts came off the bench to pass for one touchdown and run for another in the fourth quarter, rallying No. 1 Alabama to a 35-28 win against No. 4 Georgia for the Southeastern Conference title Saturday.
Heisman Trophy favourite Tua Tagovailoa had to be helped off the field with just over 11 minutes remaining after one of his own linemen stepped on the quarterback’s right ankle as he attempted to throw.
Enter Hurts, who led Alabama to the national title game as a freshman but lost the starting job to Tagovailoa. Hurts calmly guided the Crimson Tide (13-0, No. 1 CFP) to a game-tying touchdown with a 10-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy, capping a 16play, 80-yard drive that consumed more than seven minutes.
After Georgia (11-2, No. 4 CFP) was stuffed on a fake punt near midfield, Hurts took matters into his own hands for the winning score. Spotting an opening up the middle, he took off on a 15-yard TD run with 1:04 remaining .
“All year, I’ve kind of been waiting on my opportunity,” Hurts said. “My opportunity came today. I worked so hard this week with my teammates. We found a way to get it done today.”
This was a reversal of the storyline from last season’s national title game, when Tagovailoa replaced an ineffective Hurts at the start of the second half with Alabama trailing Georgia 13-0. The replacement threw three touchdown passes, including a 41-yarder in overtime that gave the Tide a stunning 26-23 victory
Tagovailoa performed brilliantly during the regular season, throwing 36 touchdown passes with only two interceptions.
But Georgia put quite a beating on Tagovailoa, who was picked off twice, spent much of his spare time in the medical tent and was largely ineffective as the Bulldogs built a pair of two-touchdown leads.
This time, it was Hurts who bailed out the Crimson Tide. When he trotted off the field after the winning TD, Tagovai- loa was one of the first ones to greet him on the sideline. Afterward, they stood side-by-side on the podium in the middle of the field while Alabama received its SEC championship trophy.
Alabama coach Nick Saban summed it up best: “Wow.”
Now, the Crimson Tide is headed back to the College Football Playoff, looking for its second straight national title and the sixth of the last decade under Saban.
The Bulldogs will likely get left out of the playoff. Big 12 champion Oklahoma avenged its only loss by beating Texas, and No. 6 Ohio State still had a chance to make its case in the Big Ten title game.
Saban’s former assistant, Kirby Smart, has built Georgia into a powerhouse, but he keeps coming up short against his ex-boss.
For the second time in about11 months, the Bulldogs squandered a double-digit lead to the Crimson Tide. While this one didn’t end with the suddenness of that national title game, it hurt just as bad.
They had had another chance to knock off the team that had been No.1in the polls all season, a team that has built perhaps. the greatest dynasty in college football history. Again, it slipped away. Georgia’s Jake Fromm threw for 301 yards and three touchdowns, while Tagovailoa was only 10 of 25 for 164 yards.
The Alabama quarterback had a pair of interceptions, matching his total for the entire season, though he did spark the comeback with a 51-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle late in the third quarter, cutting Georgia’s lead to 28-21.
Hurts took it from there.