ATLANTA – The No. 4-ranked University of Alabama football team defeated No. 3-ranked Georgia, 26-23, on a game-winning 41-yard touchdown pass from freshman Tua Tagovailoa to freshman wide receiver DeVonta Smith Monday night in the College Football Playoff National Championship Game at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.
The Crimson Tide (13-1) won its 17th national championship after edging the Bulldogs (13-2) in just the fourth College Football Playoff. Alabama head coach Nick Saban improves to 12-0 against his former assistants with the win over UGA’s Kirby Smart.
Tagovailoa was named Offensive MVP after going 14-of-24 for 166 yards, three scores through the air and 27 yards on the ground, all in the second half.
On defense, junior Da’Ron Payne was named the Defensive MVP with six tackles in the game. Sophomore linebacker Mack Wilson led the team with 12 tackles, including two tackles-for-loss. Senior defensive back Tony Brown and sophomore defensive lineman Raekwon Davis each had an interception in the win.
Georgia received the ball first in the overtime period, starting at the UA 25-yard line. The Alabama defense pushed Georgia back nine yards to the 34-yard line, where the Bulldogs netted a 51-yard field goal attempt to go up 23-20.
Lining up on the UGA 25-yard line in Alabama’s first overtime possession, Tagovailoa was sacked on the first play for a 16-yard loss to the 41-yard line. On the next play from scrimmage, Tagovailoa found Smith sprinting down the field for a 41-yard touchdown reception to give Alabama the 26-23 win in thrilling fashion.
While offense finished the game, the Tide’s defense got things started. Just three plays into Georgia’s opening drive, freshman quarterback Jake Fromm threw the ball deep down field where senior defensive back Tony Brown ripped the ball out of the intended receiver’s hands for the interception, setting up the Tide offense at its own 36-yard line.
Alabama drove the ball down to the UGA 17-yard line to attempt a 35-yard field goal, when a false-start penalty back the ball up to the UGA 22-yard line for a 40-yard try. Senior placekicker Andy Pappanastos pushed the kick wide to keep the game scoreless with 9:54 left in the opening quarter.
The two sides traded three-and-outs before Georgia took over at its own 26-yard line and drove 55 yards on 14 plays to set up a 41-yard field goal to put the Bulldogs up 3-0 with 14:14 left to go in the first half. The field goal marked only the third time this season that Alabama allowed its opponents to score the first points of the game.
After an Alabama three-and-out, the Bulldogs started at its own 20-yard line before putting together another lengthy drive, going 70 yards on 13 plays to set up a 27-yard field goal, extending the Bulldogs lead to 6-0 with 7:33 left in the half.
The Tide tried to get back on track on the following possession, when Hurts scrambled for 31 yards on the first play of the drive to the UGA 44-yard line. However, the drive stalled and Alabama punted for the third-straight time.
Both sides again traded punts before Georgia put together a scoring drive just before the half, amassing 69 yards on nine plays in just 1:12 to go up 13-0 following a one-yard touchdown run with just seven seconds left in the first half of play.
The Tide began the second half with freshman Tua Tagovailoa in at quarterback. Alabama and Georgia traded three-and-out possessions to open the half.
On the next Crimson Tide drive, UA faced a third-and-seven from its own 47-yard line when Tagovailoa escaped multiple UGA defenders in the backfield and scrambled for nine yards to keep the drive alive. The Tide capitalized with Tagovailoa completing four-straight passes, including a six-yard touchdown pass to freshman Henry Ruggs III, capping a seven-play 56-yard scoring drive. Pappanastos’ extra point made it 13-7 with 8:52 left in the third quarter.
Georgia quickly responded with an 80-yard touchdown pass to put the Bulldogs up 20-7 with 6:52 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs continued to gain momentum when Tagovailoa threw an interception to a leaping Georgia defender at the UA 39-yard line.
Alabama got the ball right back when on the next play from scrimmage, Fromm threw a pass that was tipped up into the air and into the hands of sophomore defensive lineman Raekwon Davis who galloped 19 yards to the UGA 40-yard line.
The Tide capitalized on the Georgia turnover, setting up a 43-yard Pappanastos field goal to cut the deficit to 20-10 with 5:15 remaining in the third quarter.
The Bulldogs punted twice, while the Tide came up empty on one drive before UA took over at its own 17-yard line. Freshman running back Najee Harris provided a spark off the bench with a 16-yard scamper to begin the drive, followed by a 35-yard run two plays later to put the Tide within striking distance at the UGA 14-yard line. Four plays later, Pappanastos split the uprights from 30 yards out to cap an eight-play, 71-yard drive and cut the Georgia lead to 20-13 with 9:24 left in the game.
Alabama then came up with a big stop on defense, stuffing Georgia on a third-and-two to force a three-and-out.
The Tide took over on its own 34-yard line with 7:10 remaining in the game. Tagovailoa drove the Tide down the field where the offense was faced with a fourth-and-four from the UGA seven-yard line. The true freshman scrambled around in the backfield before finding junior wide receiver Calvin Ridley in the end zone for the seven-yard touchdown. Pappanastos’ extra point tied the game at 20-20 with 3:56 left in the game.
After a Georgia three-and-out, Alabama took over on its own 35-yard line with 2:55 left in the game. A heavy dose of Harris and Tagovailoa brought the ball down to the UGA 17-yard line to set up Pappanastos for a potential game-winning 36-yard field goal with three seconds on the clock. Pappanastos missed the field goal to send the game into overtime.