Tua Tagovailoa: Backup to Legend

Alabama vs Vanderbilt” by Phillip Hendon is licensed under CC BY–NC-ND 2.0

Entering the National Championship game, Jake Fromm was one of the biggest stories. How can a true Freshman quarterback be this good already? We were all asking the question. From the moment Fromm became the starter for Georgia, the lights were on him and he made the most of it. On the season, Fromm completed 62.2% of his passes, throwing for 2615 yards and 24 TD’s. He was the highest rated quarterback in the SEC. Regardless of the outcome of this game, Jake Fromm had a great season. If Fromm would have led the Bulldogs to a title, he would have become a Georgia legend as a true Freshman. Little did Fromm or any of us know, there was another true Freshman quarterback on the other sideline waiting to become a legend.

Alabama entered halftime being down 13-0. The Alabama offense couldn’t get anything going. Starting quarterback Jalen Hurts went 3/8 for 21 yards passing. Hurts added 47 yards on the ground. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he also didn’t get the Tide any points. Being down 13 points, Alabama couldn’t have that kind of play anymore.

To the surprise of almost everyone in the stadium, Alabama made a big change at quarterback to start the second half. Instead of the usual starter Jalen Hurts, Nick Saban decided to go with Tua Tagovailoa. Alabama needed to make adjustments to get back in the game, and it turns out Nick Saban knew exactly what needed to be done. Saban knew the play he was getting from Jalen Hurts gave them no chance to win. Enter Tua Tagovailoa.

Not many people had ever heard of Tagovailoa before he stepped into the game. I had only heard of him a couple times previously, but I didn’t know anything about him. Tagovailoa had all of his playing time in game situations that haven’t mattered. He played in 7 games during the regular season, but in each of the games Alabama scored at least 40+ points and held their opponents to 23 points or less. Sounds like your typical backup quarterback.

Throughout the course of the second half, Tagovailoa showed us he wasn’t just your typical backup. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards and 3 TD’s. He wasn’t perfect by any means, throwing an INT along with some other questionable plays, but Tagovailoa proved that he was waiting for his moment. He showed us all he was built for the big stage.

The moment Tagovailoa entered the game, the comeback started. As the game went on, Alabama drew closer and closer. On Alabama’s final drive of the fourth quarter, he led them down the field and into field goal range. If their kicker would have made the field goal to win the game, he would have been the hero. Tagovailoa would have been the backup who played very well, but that spotlight would have been taken by a kick. Destiny had other plans.

Overtime came and Georgia gets the ball first. The defense does their job, holding Georgia to a field goal. Tagovailoa takes the field for the first time in OT. On the second to last play of the game, Tagovailoa took a sack for a huge loss because he held onto the ball way too long. At this point he was the backup who lost the National Championship. In one play it all changed. He dropped backed to pass, throws the ball deep, and the pass it caught for a touchdown. Alabama wins.

Tagovailoa showed us all that he was built for this. Not many people could come into the National Championship game after playing pretty much nothing but meaningless snaps all season and win the game. Most people, probably even most Alabama fans didn’t even know his name before he entered the game last night. For almost the entire season, Tagovailoa was just a backup. In one play, Tagovailoa became a legend.

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