Heading into the season opener against Louisville, plenty of questions swirled around who would start at quarterback for the defending national champions. Alabama head coach Nick Saban had kept the mystery intact heading into game week by listing junior Jalen Hurts and sophomore Tua Tagovailoa as co-starters.
Saban infamously benched Hurts at halftime in the College Football Playoff final in January to play Tagovailoa, and the Crimson Tide were rewarded as the true freshman rallied them from 13 points down for a 26–23 overtime win, capped off by a 42-yard touchdown pass to DeVonta Smith.
On Saturday night, everyone's questions were finally answered when Tua Tagovailoa started against the Cardinals. And from the opening minutes, the sophomore flashed the magic that helped Alabama break through against Georgia’s defense in January.
Tagovailoa, Hurts and even backup QB Mac Jones saw playing time throughout the Crimson Tide's 51-14 defeat over the Cardinals.
Here's the blow-by-blow of how Saban deployed his talented quarterbacks against Louisville:
Tagovailoa went 4-for-4 for 60 yards in his opening series, including a twisting, lofted 11-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Jerry Jeudy in the back corner of the end zone. Tagovailoa took a roughing the passer hit on the touchdown and stayed down on the turf momentarily before jogging off the field on his own power.
On Alabama’s next offensive series, Tagovailoa went airborne and appeared to fumble the ball as he fell to the ground. Louisville ran it back for a touchdown, which was overturned after the play was reviewed. Tagovailoa went on to add a touchdown run from nine yards out.
Tagovailoa’s first-quarter line: 7-of-10 through the air for 110 yards and one touchdown. Jalen Hurts remained on the sidelines.
Alabama scored another touchdown after a six-play drive, which included Tagovailoa running for eight yards on first-and-goal at the Louisville nine-yard line. Running back Najee Harris went on to score on a one-yard run on third-and-goal.
Jalen Hurts entered the game halfway though the second quarter. His two series resulted in punts, after going 2-for-6 for 36 yards.
Tagovailoa returned with 26 seconds left on the clock and went on to connect with Jeudy for a 25-yard touchdown in the back corner of the end zone.
Hurts's second-quarter line: 2-of-6 for 36 yards and no touchdowns.
Tagovailoa's second-quarter line: 4-of-5 through the air for 85 yards and one touchdown.
Tagovailoa remained at quarterback after halftime. In Alabama's first offensive series after the break, Tagovailoa completed a 32-yard pass to tight end Irv Smith Jr. on second-and-six to get the first down. The Crimson Tide scored two plays later on running back Josh Jacobs's 18-yard run.
Hurts entered the third quarter with less than five minutes left on the clock. In a six-play drive that resulted in a field goal, Hurts ran for six yards.
Tagovailoa's third-quarter line: 1-for-1 through the air for 32 yards.
Hurts's third-quarter line: Two carries for six yards.
Hurts continued to play quarterback at the start of a quiet fourth quarter.
During the Crimson Tide's first series, Hurts completed three passes for 34 yards but Alabama struggled to score.
On the 11th play of the series, backup QB Mac Jones entered the game to run for one yard on second-and-goal on Louisville's fourth-yard line. The series resulted in a missed field goal.
Tagovailoa did not play during the fourth quarter.
Hurts's fourth-quarter line: 3-of-3 through the air for 34 yards.
Jones's fourth-quarter line: 0-of-1 for zero yards.