Going to freshman QB lets Tide sail to another title

PHOTO BY ESPN.COM

The whole thing took nearly four hours, but in the end Alabama’s Nick Saban showed why he is the best college football coach of our time.

Maybe of all time, but there’s too many variables in different eras to really worry about that right now.

For coaches that have recently been fired, well, Nick just showed you why he keeps rolling. No, I’m not talking about recruiting. What won the Crimson Tide’s fifth national championship in the last nine years (and Saban’s sixth) was a willingness to change and adapt.

Trailing 13-0 at halftime, Bama’s offense was non-existent. They had just four first downs and less than 100 yards of total offense.

What does Nick do? He changes quarterbacks. That’s almost unheard of in a championship game. You don’t replace a two-year starter at halftime of a national championship game, do you?

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Like we said earlier, Nick didn’t teach Georgia coach Kirby Smart every thing he knows.

Nick didn’t just replace Jalen Hurts at halftime. He did it with a freshman who didn’t take a meaningful snap all season long.

So much for the experience argument. For the last several years, it’s been proven time and again that talent trumps experience every time.

Nick has said it in routine press conferences the last several years. At SEC Media Days in 2014, he told everyone he didn’t recruit players to sit on the bench as freshmen, but expected them to contribute immediately.

It’s almost as if Alabama junked the entire game plan and put it in the hands of true freshmen. They started throwing and started using more tempo.

Tua Tagovailoa, formerly of Hawaii that is not particularly known for producing stellar quarterbacks, came in the second half and the Tide started flinging it around with his southpaw style.

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“You can never tell about left-handed quarterbacks and left-handed crapshooters,” said Paul (Bear) Bryant, another Alabama coach that rolled the dice once or twice.

Tagovailoa was 14-of-24 with an interception and three touchdowns.

But he made plays. Huge plays that will go down in Alabama’s rich history.

How huge?

On fourth-and-4, down a touchdown, with less than 4 minutes remaining Tagovailoa juked around in a collapsing pocket, waited for what seemed an eternity, then hit Calvin Ridley for the game-tying score.

Are you serious? That doesn’t happen with a freshman quarterback.

In overtime, he started off by taking a 16-yard sack on first down, something you simply can’t do in that situation.

Game over, right?

Tagovailoa calmly throws a 41-yard walk-off touchdown on a rope to DeVonta Smith, who was streaking down the left sideline behind a Georgia cornerback.

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Freshman to freshman. Talk about making some gutsy decisions.

To be fair, though, Tagovailoa isn’t even the first left-handed Crimson Tide quarterback to do some pretty improbable things.

Ken Stabler kept Alabama fans on the edge of their seats for a few years in the mid-1960’s.

For Georgia, this is a game they will shake their heads over for years, decades to come. For a program without a national title since 1980, this one will sting for awhile.

For Alabama, well, it’s No. 17 the way they count the titles.

For Nick, he now has six titles which ties him with Bryant, but he still won’t let up because the legacy isn’t totally complete with the Crimson Tide quite yet.

All of Bryant’s titles were at Alabama.

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