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Tua Tagovailoa brings out the best in Al
ATLANTA Alabama's Tua Tagovailoa couldn't contain himself any longer.The freshman quarterback threw an incomprehensible 41-yard touchdown that clinched a thrilling 26-23 overtime victory for the Crimson Tide against Georgia in the College Football Playoff championship Monday night.That gave Alabama (13-1) a fifth national title under coach Nick Saban, and offered a glimpse of what's to come for the next two or three years in Tuscaloosa.MORE: Tagovailoa's Tuscaloosa, that is. The left-handed phenom from Honolulu talked about being homesick like any other freshman, even though his parents Luis Gonzalez Jersey were in the stands. He tugged at the black-and-white beads on his Alabama-themed lei, adjusted his backwardcap and let the emotion flow into the mic. He just happened to find it with arguably the most memorable walk-off sequence in college football history."I don't know how Coach Saban found me all the way from Hawaii in Alabama," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God he found me, and we're here right now."Saban couldn't contain himself any longer either.Thenext phase of"The Proce s" unfolded after Georgia (13-2) jumped out to a 13-0 halftime lead behind a spectacular performance fromfreshman Jake Fromm. Saban looked for what he called a "spark" and turned to Tagovailoa over Jalen Hurts the sophomore quarterback who was one drive away from leading the Crimson Tide to the national title last year. When Butkus Award winner Roquan Smith drilled Tagovailoa for a sack three plays later, this plan could have unhinged.But Saban stuck with Matt Szczur Jersey Tagovailoa, and it paid off."I just didn't feel we could run the ball well enough," Saban said. "I thought Tua would give us a better chance and a spark, which he certainly did."On the next drive, Tagovailoa marched Alabama downfield for a touchdown in seven plays in le s than two minutes. A dart to Henry Ruggs III on a slant confirmed what spell-check was starting to figure out. Alabama has an up-tempo offense with a down-field pa sing attack.Game on.Of course, freshman mistakes happen. Tagovailoa threw an interception on the next po se sion, but that's a clue that lets you know the future is near and going to be fun. Nick and Tua. College football's odd new couple will be more entertaining than the previous sitcom featuring Nick and Lane Kiffin.Tagovailoa put his arm around Saban and a sured the perfectionist coach everything would be OK. They joked about it later."Well, the i sue was we mi sed a signal," Saban said,looking at Tagovailoa, who tried to hide a smile. "Everybody was running a running play, but he was running a pa sing play."Saban then asked a rhetorical question."But we learn from those things, right?" Saban asked."Yes sir," Tagovailoa replied."He was just rea suring me he would learn from it," Saban said to the rest of the room.MORE: That exchange speaks to the confidence Saban had in Tagovailoa, especially inthe fourth quarter. The freshman quarterback led a game-tying drive with a go-for-broke fourth-and-4 that ended with a 7-yard touchdown to Calvin Ridley with 3:49 remaining.He nearly led the game-winning drive Wilmer Flores Jersey in regulation, but a mi sed field goal set up overtime.Georgia took a 23-20 lead on a 51-yard field goal by Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime, andthe final blur unfolded in just two plays. Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a lo s of 16 yards, to which Saban had a le s pleasant reaction."Tua probably couldn't have thrown that pa s if I could have got a hold of him after he took that sack," Saban said. "But I couldn't get out there that fast."Instead, Tagovailoa read the four verticals shooting up through Georgia's two-trap coverage. He looked off the safety and let it go."I looked back out, and he was wide open," Tagovailoa said. "Smitty was wide open, and here we are now.""Smitty" DeVonta Smith hauled in the game-winning Matt Andriese Jersey touchdown. Tagovailoa's coming-out party featured a pink-and-white confetti explosion, helmets flying throughthe air and an impromptu wedding proposal from to his girlfriend. The story ends with another national championship for Alabama, but the partnership between Saban and Tagovailoa immediately becomes the front-page storyline for 2018.Only in Alabama, right?MORE: But what does it mean for Hurts? A transfer? Position change? Will Tagovailoa be the quarterback who elevates the greatest dynasty in college football history to another, unforeseen level? Or was this Saban's plan all along the ultimate gamble that one-upped Georgia and former a sistant coach Kirby Smart in Atlanta?We know who Saban is. The no-nonsense, methodical, proce s-driven perfectionist who has run the rest of college footballinto the ground since 2007. Now he gets Tagovailoa, who talked about his faith, confidence and teammates including Hurts. It's a dynamic Saban will have to ma sage heading into spring ball, even if everybody knows the answer."We would not be here in this championship game if not for some of the very good plays Jalen Hurts made throughout the season," Saban said. "We have two guys that we have really good confidence in, and they have a tremendous amount of respect for each other. They Jarrod Dyson Jersey help each other. That's something unique to our team."Saban will be almost forced to unleash Tagovailoa a Heisman Trophy contender with a bright NFL future heading into the 2018 season. If the second half of the championship game didn't leave you wanting more, then listen to his news conference: He already sounds like former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who captivated college football for three years after a cameo in a BCS championship game as a freshman."I would say my poise comes from my faith and just being able to come to the sideline every time after I go in for a drive," Tagovailoa said. "I pray for peace, I just pray, asking God, let your will be done in me, and the rest will follow."Pray for everybody else while you're at it, Tua.They're going to need it.