Offense shines before Tagovailoa injury in win over Mississippi State


CW / Joe Will Field

It was every Alabama fan’s worst nightmare heading into this week.

For most of the week preceding the game, junior quarterback Tua Tagovailoa’s status had been up in the air after playing with his injured ankle during the LSU game.

But Tagovailoa and coach Nick Saban both decided that the quarterback was healthy enough to face the Mississippi State Bulldogs in Starkville, Mississippi.

“We worked him out [before the game] and he was good,” Saban said. “He was at least as good as he was a week ago in terms of his ability to move.”

For most of the first half, there were little to no complaints from Crimson Tide fans regarding the decision to play Tagovailoa.

He led the Crimson Tide by passing for 258 yards on 14-of-18 passing and two touchdowns while converting four of Alabama’s first five third down conversions, which helped Alabama defeat Mississippi State 38-7.

Throwing strikes to the usual quartet of wide receivers of juniors Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs III, DeVonta Smith and sophomore Jaylen Waddle, it appeared that the Crimson Tide offense had successfully bounced back after the inconsistent performance against LSU.

Facing a third-and-4 with three minutes remaining in the first half, Tagovailoa attempted to elude two Mississippi State defenders by scrambling out of the pocket. As one Mississippi State defender tackled Tagovailoa from behind, the defender landed awkwardly on Tagovailoa’s right leg.

Tagovailoa stayed on the ground for over a minute and was helped up by trainers. Emerging from the sea of the medical team, he kept all weight off of his right leg and held a towel over his face to attempt to control a bloody nose. Saban noted that after the game that Tagovailoa was en route to Birmingham for CT scans and MRI on his right hip.

“I thought he played really well,” Saban said. “We hate it that he got injured. We hate it for him. We hate it for his family. I hate it if anyone on our team gets injured.”

“He means a lot to the team,” junior running back Najee Harris added. “He’s our guy. I came in here at the same time he did and I’ve been friends with him since my freshman year. To see him go down like that really hurts.”

After halftime, redshirt sophomore Mac Jones came in to replace Tagovailoa and did not seem to miss a beat from his first career start against Arkansas three weeks ago. Jones completed his first seven passes for 94 yards.

“I talked to Mac last night and I talked to Tua last night both,” Saban said. “They knew exactly how we were going to play this game today relative to how Tua was before the game. Mac was good with it and did a good job, I think. I thought he had the right mindset and he practiced well all week and was well prepared for the game. We had confidence in him to win and play the game.”

Harris continued his impressive streak of performances now having amassed over 100 total yards in four of the last five games, including 139 yards on 20 touches Saturday against Mississippi State.

In the first half alone, Harris scored four of Alabama’s five touchdowns, with three being rushing touchdowns and the other being a receiving touchdown.

“He’s gained confidence all year long,” Saban said. “The more he has played, the more success he has. He’s running the plays very efficiently and effectively. He’s a hard guy to tackle, he’s a really good receiver. He’s just done a really, really good job and I’m pleased with the way he has played the last couple weeks.”

With the Iron Bowl in two weeks and Tagovailoa being out for the foreseeable future, next week’s game against Western Carolina is much-needed for Jones to get as many in-game reps with the first team as possible.

Currently on the outside looking in for the College Football Playoff rankings, Jeudy affirmed the team’s confidence in the Crimson Tide’s backup quarterback.

“We have a great level of confidence in Mac [Jones],” Jeudy said. “He’s been practicing really good and practicing with the ones a lot doing everything he’s supposed to do.”