Tua Tagovailoa lights up Blue Devils in season debut

Cary L. Clark

ATLANTA — Heisman Trophy candidate Tua Tagovailoa went three quarters and threw for 336 yards on 26-of-31 passing during Alabama's 42-3 victory over Duke on Saturday. 

The junior tallied four touchdown passes and added 15 yards rushing to account for 351 yards of total offense.

“Tua I thought played really well in the game because he took what the defense gave,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “There was a couple times that he probably could have thrown the ball when he handed it off, probably down and distance wise, and it was probably one of the worst things we did is have second-and-1 about three minutes to go in the half, not be able to convert on third-and-1 after a bad play on second-and-1 and gave them the ball back and went two-minute and you never want to give the other team the ball back.

“Whether you score or not, you don't want to give the other team the ball back before the half. That was probably something not great we did on offense, not necessarily Tua's fault. I thought he played well in the game. He usually plays well when he's patient and takes what the defense gives, so I was pleased.”

Tagovailoa said, “It feels good. I think what was really good about today was that we had to sustain drives this time. We had to work to score and not just go out there and take shots right away.

“I thought that was a very disciplined defense. They showed us a lot of exotic things in the first half. I feel we did a great job of adjusting to what they were sending to us and what they were getting into.”

Color Duke coach David Cutcliffe as also being impressed with Tagovailoa. Cutcliffe worked with both Mannings among others and has strong reputation for developing quarterback talent.

“(Tua) is incredible,” Cutcliffe said. “He's accurate. He's poised. His release is so compact and supple and quick. He can throw on the run. One of the things early in the game was them avoiding sacks. Had we had a few of those sacks happen, we could have put them behind the chains.

“But I said this -- I've studied him now. I had never studied him until this summer. I think he's going to be a great quarterback this year, and he will play in the National Football League a long time. He's going to be a great player.”