Alabama trails Georgia in the second half of a championship game before the Crimson Tide’s backup quarterback takes over and orchestrates a comeback win. Where have we seen this before?
Last year, in the College Football Playoff championship, it was Tua Tagovailoa coming in to replace Jalen Hurts — who had struggled to start the game — and throwing three touchdowns to overcome a 13-0 deficit and win the title.
This year, in the SEC championship, it was Hurts on to replace an injured Tagovailoa. The former starter — who decided not to transfer from Alabama after being replaced in the depth chart this offseason — came on with 11:07 left in the game, trailing 28-21, and led two straight touchdown drives to give the Crimson Tide the 35-28 lead and their eighth SEC championship, breaking the tie with Florida for the most in the conference’s history.
JALEN HURTS. TIE GAME.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 2, 2018
Football is awesome. pic.twitter.com/NyiEWREIaC
"I honestly didn't know what to think," said Hurts of entering the game for Tagovailoa. "All year, I've been waiting on my opportunity."
That opportunity came Saturday, and Hurts capitalized. In just over 11 minutes of play, the junior was 7-for-9 for 82 yards and a touchdown, while rushing five times for 28 yards and another score.
That second touchdown came after a very questionable call by Georgia to attempt a fake punt with three minutes left in a tied game. Alabama snuffed out the play and took over on its own 48-yard line. Five plays later, Hurts ran it in from 15 yards out to take the lead.
Jalen Hurts scores a go-ahead touchdown with Tua Tagovailoa cheering him on.— CBS Sports (@CBSSports) December 2, 2018
You simply cannot make this up. pic.twitter.com/ngRf95vtL8
While it was the injury that eventually forced him out of the game, Tagovailoa struggled early in the game, throwing two interceptions for the first time all season. His uncharacteristic performance mirrored that of the Crimson Tide as a whole, as Alabama looked out of sorts in the first half, dropping wide open passes, completely missing coverage assignments, even running into the kicker to give Georgia an extra possession.
It didn't help that Tagovailoa suffered multiple minor leg injuries early, entering the medical tent on more than one occasion. But he pressed on until the fourth quarter, when an offensive lineman stepped on his ankle, sending him off for good and queuing up the miracle storyline.
After Hurts barreled in for the go-ahead score, Tagovailoa — injured legs and all — rushed to meet him on the sidelines and celebrate. It was a complete flip of the script from last season, with one important constant — Alabama on top.
All love between Tua and Jalen pic.twitter.com/SWHRkpk4pQ— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) December 2, 2018