The Alabama Crimson Tide came back to defeat the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime, 26-23, to win the college football national championship.
Alabama’s win Monday night is the program’s 11th national championship and fifth since 2009.
The Crimson Tide won the game in overtime behind freshman quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who threw a 42-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver DeVonta Smith.
Tagovailoa took the helm at quarterback after halftime, replacing Jalen Hurts who was mostly ineffective during his time playing. The Crimson Tide were down 13-0 to the Bulldogs at the half.
Tagovailoa led Alabama to the victory with three touchdown passes, while erasing a 13-point deficit.
The game went into overtime after Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed what would have been the game-winning 36-yard field goal. Georgia put Alabama on its heels during its first possession in the overtime period with Rodrigo Blankenship nailing a 51-yard field goal to the team up, 23-20.
Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama’s first play in overtime. He lost 16 yards on the failed scramble, but somehow managed to bounce back and find Smith down the sideline for the win.
Alabama head coach Nick Saban made the crucial decision to replace Hurts in the middle of the game, despite only being down 13 points.
“I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did,” Saban said. “He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I’m so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable.”
Saban, who was red hot on the sideline after Tagovailoa took a sack in overtime, said after the game he couldn’t believe the freshman threw the game-winning touchdown pass on the very next play.
“I could not believe it,” he said. “There’s lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, ‘Don’t waste the feeling.’ They sure didn’t, the way they played tonight.”
Alabama trailed Georgia, 13-0, at the half and 20-7 in the third quarter after the Bulldogs’ own freshman quarterback Jake Fromm nailed Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
The Crimson Tide’s grittiness at the end of the game was just enough to squeak out the victory.
Saban, who took over as Alabama’s head coach in 2009, now has six total national championships – five with Alabama and one with LSU.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.