Wow. What a game.
Alabama couldn’t do much of anything offensively in the first half; so, in the biggest game of the year, Nick Saban pulled his quarterback, who had heretofore gone 25-2 as a starter, and inserted a true freshman who hadn’t seen playing time without at least a three possession lead.
The rest is history.
3rd and 7: Tagovailoa is in his second series. The first resulted in a three and out, and it’s looking like this one could follow suit after the freshman just missed connecting with Ridley on a deep ball.
Tagovailoa is in shotgun with Bo Scarbrough (#9) on his left hip. He has trips right and one lone receiver to the left. Georgia threatens to send pressure but only rushes three initially. Tagovailoa hits the end of his drop but has nowhere to go with the ball. He scans the field but still can’t find anyone. A linebacker on a delayed blitz gets by RT Matt Womack (#77), and Tagovailoa has to scramble. He rolls to his right, and it looks like the Dawgs are going to have another sack. Tagovailoa cuts upfield, eluding one defender; but two more hit him. He somehow bounces out of it and spins back to his left. He escapes another defender, and all of a sudden he has a lot of field and a couple blockers. Tagovailoa gets 9 yards and the first.
1st and goal: Three passes and three completions later, the offense is on the Georgia 6 yard line. Tagovailoa is in shotgun with Scarbrough to his left again. Irv Smith (#82) is the tight end on the right, and Henry Ruggs (#11) is wide right. Smith just runs to the corner, drawing the strongside linebacker with him in man coverage. Ruggs breaks outside before cutting back inside, getting separation from the cornerback. Tagovailoa sees him getting open, and he throws it where Ruggs will soon be. The receiver makes an easy catch, and Alabama is finally on the board.
2nd and 10: Georgia’s true freshman quarterback responded with an 80 yard touchdown pass on 3rd down, so the deficit is back to 13. Tagovailoa just missed DeVonta Smith on a post route. He’s back in shotgun with trips left (Irv Smith, Jerry Jeudy, and Calvin Ridley from the line out). Georgia’s just in man coverage. Tagovailoa rolls out to his left with Damien Harris (#34) rolling with him. Alex Leatherwood (#70), in for an injured Jonah Williams, gets beat by the defensive end Jonathan Ledbetter, who is bearing in on Tagovailoa. Here we see a slightly big miscommunication. Everybody but the quarterback is expecting a run. Tagovailoa lofts a pass into a mess of traffic, and defensive back Deandre Baker comes away with the interception.
4th and 4: Alabama has driven down to the Georgia 7 yard line, but they’ve stalled. With time winding down, Alabama can’t settle for a field goal; they need a touchdown. So they’re going for it.
Ridley is in the slot on the right. Najee Harris (#22) is to the left of Tagovailoa, who sends Harris out wide left. Tagovailoa looks to Ridley right away on a slant, but the corner is in good coverage, and there’s a safety sitting right there. Fortunately, the freshman doesn’t force a pass. He scrambles out as the left side of the line collapses. Tagovailoa never stops looking to the end zone, though; and he rifles a throw while on the run. In a game of inches, Tagovailoa just gets the ball past a defender’s outstretched hand; and Ridley catches it. I’m not sure if Tagovailoa was going for Ridley or Harris; either way, it ended up working out.
1st and 10: Alabama’s defense came up big against, holding Georgia to a field goal on the first possession of overtime. Alabama can win it with a touchdown. Tagovailoa has Damien Harris to his right, DeVonta Smith to his left, and two receivers wide right. Harris motions out into a bunch with Smith on the left. Tagovailoa fakes the quick pass to Harris and looks deep. Georgia’s downfield coverage is good, however; and Alex Leatherwood gets beat by OLB Davin Bellamy. Tagovailoa avoids Bellamy by running back and tries to signal to Harris, who’s covered, to run downfield. At this point, Tagovailoa needs to just throw it away. Unfortunately, he hangs on to it, hoping to make a play. He cannot make a play and takes an inexcusable sack.
2nd and 26: Alabama comes back with a similar formation, but they rotate Irv Smith in at tight end in place of Hale Hentges. DeVonta Smith is the lone receiver on the left. The Bulldogs rush just four, dropping seven. They have two deep safeties and are playing Cover 2. Tagovailoa looks to the right for a second, drawing senior safety Dominick Sanders, in that direction. And that’s all he needs. Tagovailoa goes back to his left and hits a streaking Smith in stride for the game-winning touchdown, etching his name in Crimson Tide lore.