Jalen Hurts’s lackluster performance for Alabama in the first half of the national championship game left many observers wondering if it was time to give true freshman backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a shot. Indeed it was.
“We just can’t move the ball effectively,” head coach Nick Saban said in a halftime interview with ESPN. “We haven’t been able to throw it effectively at all. And I don’t think it’s just all the quarterback. I think it’s the whole group. We’ve got to get open, we’ve got to protect better.”
Hurts completed just three of his eight passes in the first half, for a total of 21 yards as the Tide fell in an early 13–0 hole.
Sure enough, when the second half started Saban called Tua’s number. Here’s what you need to know about Bama’s No. 2 QB.
He was a heralded recruit
ESPN ranked Tagovailoa as the top dual-threat QB in the class of 2017. He played high school football in Hawaii and chose Bama over offers from USC, UCLA, Louisville, Texas A&M and LSU, among others. Bama is also chasing his younger brother, Taulia, a 2019 QB prospect.
Tua threw for more yards than anyone in the history of Hawaii high school football, breaking the record in the state championship game his senior year. He racked up 8,158 yards through the air, breaking the previous record of 8,001 yards held by Timmy Chang.
He saw only limited action this season
Hurts started every game at quarterback this season but Tua saw time in blowout victories. He completed 35 of 53 passes for 470 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception.
Before Monday, his last action came in the Tide’s trouncing of Mercer on Nov. 18. He completed seven of 11 passes for 85 yards and three touchdowns.
At least one Bama fan might think he doesn’t speak English
He can sing
He’s tight with Georgia QB Jake Fromm
Tagovailoa and Fromm became friends during Nike’s Elite 11 quarterback camp, and Tua ranks the Georgia freshman as one of his best friends in football.
He wasn’t pushing to get on the field
Chatter that Tagovailoa might be a better option than Hurts has persisted for a while now and reached new heights before Alabama’s Sugar Bowl win over Clemson.
“You just always have to be ready. You never know when your number is going to be called. I’m pretty confident that I could step in,” Tagovailoa told SI.com’s Andy Staples before the game. “But I’m just here to support Jalen. I’m just here to do what the team needs me to do.”
He led a remarkable comeback to win a national championship
Tagovailoa proved that Saban made the right call and helped spearhead a clutch comeback to give Alabama its fifth national title under Nick Saban. He completed 14 of 24 passes for 166 yards, with three touchdowns and one interception. He also picked up 24 yards on the ground, including a key first down on the final drive of regulation that set up a potential game-winning field goal. (Andy Pappanastos missed the kick.)
It was Tagovailoa’s 41-yard touchdown pass—following a 16-yard sack—that won the game in overtime for the Tide. He was named Offensive Player of the Game.