The Crimson White

Tagovailoa shines in first career start

James Ogletree, Staff Writer

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ORLANDO – No, those weren’t boos emanating from the Camping World Stadium crowd as Alabama took the field against Louisville on Saturday night. They were bellows of “Tua”, in admiration of the true-sophomore quarterback who had begun trotting out to take the Crimson Tide’s opening snap.

After eight months of speculation that included both transfer rumors and Heisman hype, the title game hero dazzled in his first career start, racking up 253 yards of total offense and three total touchdowns en route to a 51-14 Alabama victory.

“Tua played well; he made some really good throws – and I mean really good throws, very accurate throws,” coach Nick Saban said. “He executed, he did what he was supposed to do, he read the right things.”

Tagovailoa played Alabama’s first four drives, completing 9 of his first 12 passes. The offense gained 258 yards on the 27 plays comprising those first four possessions for an average of 9.6 yards per play. Those numbers jumped to 346 yards on 34 plays after another touchdown drive to open the second half.

Saban said he notified the quarterbacks Thursday of the decision to start Tagovailoa. The coaches stuck to the plan for him to play roughly the first 20 plays before handing the reins to junior Jalen Hurts, who had started the Crimson Tide’s previous 28 games.

Hurts played two drives in the second quarter before Tagovailoa returned to finish out the half and gain experience running the two-minute offense. Then the junior played two more drives in the second half before ceding the rest of the game to sophomore Mac Jones.

He finished 5-of-9 passing for 70 yards, including a 27-yard completion to sophomore wide receiver DeVonta Smith.

All six drives led by Tagovailoa reached the red zone. Five resulted in touchdowns; only a fumble by Smith on Alabama’s second drive prevented a perfect 6-for-6 night for the sophomore signal-caller.

Smith caught four passes for 99 yards, surpassing his previous career highs in receptions (one) and receiving yards (41). All four of his receptions were gains of at least 15 yards.

It was also a career night for sophomore receiver Jerry Jeudy, whose two touchdowns in the first half matched his total from all of last season. The game’s first drive culminated with Tagovailoa spinning to avoid a Louisville rusher and firing an off-balance throw to Jeudy in the end zone.

“That’s just natural for Tua,” Jeudy said. “Tua’s used to doing all that spinning and stuff.”

Freshman wide receiver Jaylen Waddle caught two passes for 55 yards, including a 49-yard deep ball after he had beaten both a corner and a safety. He also returned three kicks for 59 yards and had a touchdown return called back.

Junior running back Josh Jacobs had a 77-yard kickoff return that resulted in a touchdown and added an 18-yard rushing score. Senior Damien Harris led all rushers with 55 yards on seven carries.

Alabama finished with 519 total yards – 222 rushing and 297 passing. Even though Tagovailoa played more snaps than Hurts and the offense recorded better snaps under his guidance, expect to continue seeing both play meaningful snaps.

“We’re going to continue to have both these guys be weapons for us on offense, because I think they can,” Saban said. “I hope both guys can do a good job of preparing and managing to get ready for the game so that they can contribute to our team in a positive way.”

The Crimson Tide moves on to host Arkansas State on Saturday, September 8.

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Tagovailoa shines in first career start