ATLANTA (AP) — Tua Tagovailoa threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith to give No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia to win the College Football Playoff national championship Monday night.
Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes, including the game-ender to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.
After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 37-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation, Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.
Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama’s first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, streaking down the sideline and hit him in stride for the national championship.
This game will be remembered for Saban’s decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.
“I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did,” Saban said. “He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I’m so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable.”
Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama’s last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.
This one was nothing like the others.
The all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and went with the five-star recruit from Hawaii to start the second half.
The Tide trailed 13-0 at halftime and 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia’s freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.
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