Tua Tagovailoa remembers second-and-26.
He also remembers how he got there.
Alabama’s then-freshman quarterback threw the winning touchdown pass in overtime against Georgia in January’s national championship game in Atlanta. On the play before, he took a 16-yard sack.
Tagovailoa has seen the pass that made him famous a number of times, no doubt, but he’s also studied other plays that occurred when he came off the bench in the second half: that sack, an interception and a near-interception that was thrown into triple coverage among them. He hasn’t just seen them – he’s studied them.
“Oh definitely,” Tagovailoa said last Saturday at Alabama’s media day at Bryant-Denny Stadium. “We’ve watched it in film. We have film — good, bad and ugly — and that’s definitely been on the ugly.
“It’s most definitely something you can learn from: Instead of taking a sack, throw the ball away.”
The young left-handed quarterback from Hawaii acknowledges that one pass changed his life. It put him on the college football map – some oddsmakers even have him as a favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, based, mostly, upon one half of play – but says it’s not that big of a deal.
“It’s definitely changed a lot, and I think that goes for anyone who’s in the spotlight or whatnot, and who nobody really knows about, and performs in a big situation,” he said. “So I think that it’s changed, and I think that goes for anyone that does something at least decent on a big stage.”
But Tagovailoa isn’t focused so much on what he did last season as what he needs to do now. He’s competing with Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s incumbent starter, in fall camp. That competition might have payed out, at least to some degree, during spring practice, but he didn’t see live action due to a hand injury.
“It gave me a good amount of time to rest and just focus mentally on plays and focus on protections and whatnot,” he said. “It think it was kind of for good, but at the same time I learn a lot better doing than just watching.
“I’m not focused on winning the job. I don’t think that’s ever been in my persona. I think what we have to do as a team is what’s most important to me. We’ve got to focus on what we can do now to better ourselves, better each other, and as the season goes on we’ll see and whatnot.”
New offensive coordinator Mike Locksley underscored that head coach Nick Saban will name the starting quarterback, but he isn’t looking for a specific skill set. He described his ultimate quarterback as “a guy that wins.”
“Ultimately, that’s the job of the quarterback,” Locksley said, “is to find ways to score points and win ballgames. For me, that’s the most important thing. That something I think obviously when coach makes that decision, the decision will be made based on who gives us the best chance to win.”
Tagovailoa said the competition is a friendly one. He stressed that he and Hurts don’t have issues.
“We don’t talk about any quarterback controversies at practice,” he said. “Me and Jalen don’t bring it up. As far as this season, we’re just looking at getting each other better. There’s no negative contingencies, we don’t go into games thinking I might not start or I’m going to go into this game and I’m going to throw a pick. No negative contingencies, we want to be positive because the team looks at that.”
Reach Tommy Deas at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0224.