ATLANTA — Alabama turned to freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and staged a dramatic national comeback in the College Football Playoff championship game.
Tagovailoa delivered in Monday night’s 26-23 overtime victory over Georgia. He completed a 41-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman DeVonta Smith to give the Crimson Tide another national title.
Tagovailoa replaced a struggling Jalen Hurts coming out of the locker room in the second half with the Crimson Tide trailing Georgia 13-0. Hurts had gone just 3-of-8 passing for 21 yards in the first half while running for 47 yards, and Alabama’s offense looked completely stagnant.
Tagovailoa, a five-star recruit from Hawaii, completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns and ran for 27 yards. He had played in eight games this season.
Most of his action came in mop up duties, and Alabama went three-and-out on his first drive.
The lefty was far more successful on drive No. 2. Tagovailoa passed and ran the Tide to its first score of the game, a 6-yard touchdown to freshman Henry Ruggs III.
He converted a third-and-7 play with a nifty run. He ran right and, with three Georgia defenders around him, reversed field and scampered for a first down on the TD drive.
On his third drive, Tagovailoa’s up and down start continued. He threw an interception in Alabama territory when all the receivers on that side of the field were blocking.
Then a quick Alabama interception set him up in Georgia territory but the Tide settled for a field goal after three straight incompletions.
Coming into the game, Tagovailoa had completed 35 of 53 passes for 470 yards with eight touchdowns against one interception.
Hurts was the Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year as a freshman last season and has thrown only one interception all season. But he struggled in a loss to Auburn in the regular season and played better in the Sugar Bowl against Clemson but still passed for just 120 yards.