QB Hurts comes off bench, leads Tide to league ti­tle

San Francisco Chronicle - Late Edition (Sunday) - - COLLEGE FOOTBALL - By Paul New­berry Paul New­berry is an As­so­ci­ated Press writer.

AT­LANTA — Jalen Hurts spent most of the season watch­ing from the side­line, cheer­ing on the guy who took his job and hop­ing for one more chance to lead the Al­abama Crim­son Tide.

He didn’t pout. He didn’t gripe. He didn’t trans­fer.

On Satur­day, Hurts got the call.

Boy, did he re­spond. Hurts threw for one touch­down, then ran for the win­ner with just over a minute to go as No. 1 Al­abama ral­lied for a 35-28 vic­tory over No. 4 Ge­or­gia in the SEC cham­pi­onship game. It was a stun­ning twist on the sce­nario that played out less than 11 months ear­lier on the same field.

“I’ve prob­a­bly never been more proud of a player than Jalen,” Al­abama coach Nick Sa­ban said.

In last season’s na­tional ti­tle game at Mercedes-Benz Sta­dium be­tween th­ese same two teams, Tua 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 26-23 win.

Tago­v­ailoa won the start­ing job out­right head­ing into this season and per­formed bril­liantly be­fore Satur­day, throw­ing 36 touch­down passes with only two in­ter­cep­tions.

The SEC ti­tle game took a dif­fer­ent path. Ge­or­gia put quite a beat­ing on Tago­v­ailoa, who threw two in­ter­cep­tions, spent much of his spare time in the med­i­cal tent and was largely in­ef­fec­tive as the Bull­dogs built a two-touch­down lead twice.

Fi­nally, with just over 11 min­utes re­main­ing, Tago­v­ailoa went down for good af­ter one of his line­men stepped on his right foot as he at­tempted to throw.

En­ter Hurts, who posted a 26-2 record as the starter be­fore Tago­v­ailoa claimed the job.

Hurts calmly guided the Crim­son Tide (13-0) to a ga­me­ty­ing touch­down with a 10yard pass to Jerry Jeudy, cap­ping a 16-play, 80-yard drive that con­sumed more than seven min­utes.

Af­ter Ge­or­gia (11-2) 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.

“It’s un­prece­dented to have a guy that won as many games as he won ... start as a fresh­man, only lose a cou­ple of games the whole time that he was the starter, and then all of a sud­den he’s not the quar­ter­back,” Sa­ban said. “How do you man­age that? How do you han­dle that? You’ve got to have a tremen­dous amount of class and char­ac­ter to put team first, know­ing your sit­u­a­tion is not what it used to be.”

Hurts com­pleted 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards, to go along with five car­ries for 28 yards in less than a quar­ter of ac­tion.

“It kind of feels like I’m break­ing my si­lence,” Hurts said.

He spoke loud and clear against the Bull­dogs. And when he trot­ted off the field af­ter the win­ning touch­down, Tago­v­ailoa was one of the first team­mates to greet him. Af­ter­ward, they stood side-by-side on the podium in the mid­dle of the field while Al­abama re­ceived its SEC cham­pi­onship tro­phy.

Kevin C. Cox / Getty Images

Al­abama’s Jalen Hurts (2), who lost his job as the start­ing quar­ter­back to Tua Tago­v­ailoa in last season’t SEC ti­tle game, came in late Satur­day and led two TD drives against Ge­or­gia.

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