HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The present and future of the Alabama Crimson Tide football team now falls on the shoulders of Tua Tagovailoa.
Down 13-0 to Georgia at halftime on college football's biggest stage, Alabama head coach Nick Saban had to do something.
His quarterback, Jalen Hurts, just didn't have it on Monday night.
Going into halftime, Hurts was 3-of-8 passing, throwing for a total of 21 yards. Outplayed, outcoached and out hustled, the Crimson Tide needed a spark from someone on their bench.
It was at that moment that Tagovailoa became an overnight sensation.
"We've had this in our mind that if we were struggling offensively, that we would give Tua an opportunity - even in the last game," Saban said in the postgame press conference. "No disrespect to Jalen, but the real thought was we came into the game thinking we were gonna run the ball and be able to make quarterback runs … but just with the absence and being able to make an explosive play and be able to convert on third down, I just didn't feel like we could run the ball well enough and I thought that Tua would give us a better chance and a spark, which he certainly did."
For those paying attention, however, Tagovailoa's sudden rise in stardom isn't a surprise.
After months and months of preparation, studying behind Hurts in limited reps at practice, Tagovailoa prepared and waited until his patience paid off.
"I think preparation to this point has been the key thing without offensive coaches helping us throughout the process and just building the trust in each other - from the O-line to the receivers creating a bond with each other," Tagovailoa said postgame. "I think it's helped us build confidence coming into this game to where if you got to go in, if your number is called, then you gotta do what you gotta do to give the team the best opportunity to win the game."
Spearheading a 26-23 comeback in overtime to give Alabama a national championship, Tagovailoa shocked the college football world. After all, he had never played in a game at this level when his team wasn't leading comfortably.
"I couldn't be prouder of him taking advantage of the opportunity," Saban said. "We have total confidence in him, we've played him a lot in game this year and he did very well."
What happens next with the starting quarterback competition remains a mystery. Hurts is 25-2 as a starter and is still considered to be one of the most explosive dual-threat quarterbacks in college football.
But after Tagovailoa's performance, it will be interesting to see who gets the first team reps going into Spring ball if both players choose to stay in Tuscaloosa. Former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin said Tuesday morning in an interview with The Dan Patrick Show that if Tagovailoa didn't play in the national championship game, he would've transferred.
"If this second half doesn't flip like this, and Alabama is moving the ball and doesn't change [quarterbacks], people that really know what's going on would tell you that Tua was leaving. Because Tua thought that he should be the starting quarterback and had outperformed him in practice and Coach never gave him an opportunity ... How this second half played out changes college football, because Tua is going to be one of the best quarterbacks in college football."
While Kiffin hasn't been with the Alabama coaching staff for over a year, his voice does carry some weight as he helped recruit Tagovailoa to Alabama from the islands. If Tagovailoa is named the starter in Spring ball, does Hurts transfer?
Or does Hurts, who has proven to be a reliable presence under center for the Crimson Tide, become the starter again with Tagovailoa as his understudy?
It appears that only time will tell what happens with Alabama's quarterback situation.