Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts had a 25-2 record as the starting quarterback, and he’d led the Crimson Tide to back-to-back trips to the College Football Playoff National Championship. He rocked out as the SEC Offensive Player of the Year last year and accumulated more than 6,500 total yards and 61 career touchdowns.
But in the national championship game, with Alabama trailing 13-0 at halftime, Nick Saban, with a title on the line, inserted true freshman QB Tua Tagovailoa. The lefty from Hawaii, which Georgia did not have much substantive film on, led Alabama as they overcame a double-digit deficit and beat Georgia 26-23 in overtime to win its fifth national championship under Saban.
Tagovailoa did not factor into the casual fan’s game plan, but Saban knew exactly what he was doing when he inserted him into the game to start the second half. On fourth-and-4, down a touchdown, with less than four minutes remaining, he bounced around in a collapsing pocket with supreme patience before finding receiver extraordinaire Calvin Ridley for the game-tying score.
In overtime, he tossed a 41-yard touchdown strike to DeVonta Smith to secure the victory that seemed unlikely heading into halftime.
Tagovailoa’s ability to stretch the Bulldogs’ defense made all the difference in a mere half as he completed 14 of his 24 passes for 166 yards and three touchdowns.
In the process, Saban came off looking like a genius in making his case as the best coach in college football history.
Saban is now tied with the former Alabama legend Bear Bryant with six total national championships. But the current Bama head coach took 13 fewer seasons to make that happen.
In last year’s national title game, Clemson came back in the final seconds to beat the Tide behind the phenomenal play of QB Deshaun Watson. This year, they made sure that something like that would not happen again.
Bama did not showcase it’s most talented team over the last few years, but Saban proved why he’s one of the best coaches ever in the history of the game by going to a weapon that very few had considered or game-planned for.
Love him or hate him, Saban is one of the best to ever stalk the sideline. Check his resume. The results are undeniable.
This story originally appeared on TheShadowLeague.com, a site dedicated to journalistically sound sports coverage with a cultural perspective that insightfully informs sports fans worldwide.