HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - With his Crimson Tide trailing Georgia at halftime of the college football national championship game, Alabama head coach Nick Saban decided to make a quarterback change to start the third quarter.
Freshman Tua Tagovailoa repaid him with another national championship.
Tagovailoa tossed a walk-off, game-winning 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith in overtime against the Bulldogs to secure Alabama's 16th-ever NCAA national championship – the fifth for Saban since joining the Crimson Tide ten years ago.
"It was just a team effort. Without them, it couldn't have been done," said Tagovailoa after the game. "I'm glad we got to do this."
Tagovailoa – who was awarded offensive MVP honors following the game – made his impact felt almost immediately. The former Saint Louis quarterback drove Alabama straight down the field on just his second possession of the night, and a six-yard touchdown pass to receiver Henry Ruggs resulted in 'Bama's first points of the game, making the score 13-7.
Tagovailoa went 4-5 passing on the drive, for 37 yards, and ran for an additional 12 on the ground.
"Tua did a great job, gave us a little spark," said Saban. "I just thought we had to throw the ball in the game and I thought he could do it better. And he did."
Georgia was quick to respond, and the Bulldogs seemed intent on stifling any momentum Tagovailoa had managed to build. Quarterback Jake Fromm tossed an 80-yard touchdown pass to Mecole Hardman on the game's next possession to make it 20-7, and a Tagovailoa interception on the Tide's next possession gave the balll right back to the Bulldogs.
Georgia, though, couldn't capitalize, and a pair of subsequent drives by Tagovailoa ended in field goals by Andy Pappanastos that closed the margin to 20-13.
Trailing by a touchdown and with the fourth quarter clock winding down, Tagovailoa again led the Tide down the field, but a Damien Harris run on third-and-three at the Georgia six yard line was stuffed to bring up fourth down.
Saban went for it, and the fleet-footed Tagovailoa evaded Georgia's pass rush long enough to deliver a 7-yard touchdown strike to Calvin Ridley that tied the game at 20.
Georgia went three-and-out on their next drive, and Tagovailoa managed to carry Alabama into field goal range, but a 36-yard Pappanastos attempt missed, sending the game into overtime.
The Bulldogs managed only a field goal in the extra period, setting the stage for Tagovailoa's ascent into Alabama football legend.
"It's a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans, for our players. Unbelievable," said Saban. "I've never been happier in my life."