If Nick Saban wasn’t already considered the greatest college football coach, then last Monday night’s 26-23 overtime victory by Alabama over Georgia in the College Football Playoff Championship Game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in front of 77,430 spectators cemented the claim.
In a rather bold move, Saban took out sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts and replaced him in the second half with freshman Tua Tagovailoa, the far superior passer.
Hurts completed three of eight for 21 yards and ran for 47 yards on six carries, but was unable to move the Crimson Tide, which trailed 13-0 at halftime.
Saban is tied with Alabama legend Paul ‘Bear’ Bryant
This tactic helped Saban win his fifth national title at Alabama and sixth overall that included one at LSU and is tied with Alabama legend Paul “Bear’’ Bryant.
The No. 4 Crimson Tide, which knocked off No. 1 Clemson 24-6 in the Sugar Bowl, have played in the last three title games and have claimed two.
The game-winner was Tagovailoa’s 41-yard laser to freshman wide receiver DeVonta Smith for his only reception.
Sophomore Rodrigo Blankenship’s 51-yard field goal gave the No. 3 Bulldogs (13-2) a 23-20 edge in the extra session.
The key play was a fourth and four from Georgia’s seven as Tagovailoa found junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley (32 yards on four catches) with a toss that evened it at 20-20 and 3:49 showing in the fourth quarter.
Georgia, which took out No. 2 Oklahoma 54-48 in double overtime in the Rose Bowl, held Alabama (13-1) to 94 total net yards at the break while churning out 223.
Blankenship’s 41-yarder made it 3-0 with 14:14 left in the second frame and 6-0 on Blankenship’s 27-yarder with 7:33 on the clock.
Georgia’s lead was 13-0 when sophomore wide receiver Mecole Hardman (80 yards on two catches and 10 yards on two runs) took a direct snap and veered left into the end zone from one yard and seven seconds left.
Alabama (371 total yards) reduced Georgia’s lead to 13-7 when Tagovailoa (14 of 24 for 166 yards and one interception) found freshman wide receiver Henry Ruggs III (29 yards on three catches) with a six-yard strike and 8:52 left in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs (365 total yards) responded with an 80-yard bullet from freshman quarterback Jake Fromm (16 of 32 for 232 yards and two picks) to Hardman with 6:52 remaining in the third period that made it 20-7.
Tagovailoa (27 yards on 12 carries) was picked on his next series and Fromm was as well which led to a 43-yard field goal from senior Andy Pappanastos and 5:15 left in the fourth frame that shaved Georgia’s margin to 20-10.
Pappanastos had a 30-yarder with 9:24 left in the fourth quarter that cut the gap to 20-13.
Rick Assad has written about sports for the Pasadena Star-News and Los Angeles Times. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.