ATLANTA–You are Alabama coach Nick Saban. You have 5 national championship rings in your trophy case.
You need one more to match the legendary Paul Bear Bryant, an Alabama ghost you have been chasing for a decade.
But after 30 minutes in Monday night’s national championship game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium against Georgia, you have witnessed some true UFO moments–something happened, but you can’t quite explain what they are.
Such as: Score: Alabama 0, Georgia 13
First downs: Alabama 4, Georgia 16
Penalties: Alabama 5 for 26 yards, Georgia 2 for 15.
Third down conversions: Alabama 1 of 6, Georgia 6 of 11.
None of those numbers make sense for a Nick Saban coached team playing in a big game. Alabama is being outplayed on the field and on the sidelines.
When asked about it at halftime, you sound as confused as your team has looked. “”We have to do something,” you say. “”We haven’t been able to throw it effectively at all and I don’t think it’s just the quarterback (Jalen Hurts). We have to get open and we have to protect better. Defensively we are making too many mistakes.”
So what do you do?
You make one of the boldest moves in championship history, benching Hurts a quarterback who took Alabama to within a few seconds of the national championship last season and who had guided the Tide to 12 victories in 13 games this season and a spot in the national championship game for the third straight season.
And you replace Hurts with a true freshman QB named Tua Tagovailoa, who a year ago was still playing high school in Hawaii.
Yes, he was the top-rated dual threat prep QB in the country last season, but his role this season was a back up to Hurts, playing in only 8 games, completing 35 of 53 passes for 470 yards against teams such as Fresno State, Mercer and Tennessee.
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