Despite all the mumblings and grumblings about whether Tua Tagovailoa should play against The Citadel, which he claims he never heard a word of, the Alabama quarterback took the field Saturday in Bryant-Denny Stadium.
Not only did he play, Tagovailoa broke an Alabama record during the Crimson Tide’s 50-17 victory. The sophomore officially passed former quarterback AJ McCarron on UA’s single-season touchdown passes list. Tagovailoa has thrown 31 this season after throwing three against The Citadel.
“It’s always nice to see our players who are performing well get recognized for what they do,” UA coach Nick Saban said. “Tua’s had a really good year, and we’re excited for him that he’s set a record, broke a record or whatever. But I’m the first thing he would tell you is that if it wasn’t for his teammates he wouldn’t have had the opportunity to do that.”
Saban was not wrong.
“A lot of credit does belong to my teammates,” Tagovailoa said.
Somebody has to catch his passes.
Wide receiver Jaylen Waddle had a 21-yard scoring reception in the first quarter and then a 5-yarder in the third quarter. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. snagged a 68-yard touchdown toss in the third quarter.
“I didn’t know he did that,” Alabama offensive lineman Jonah Williams said. “So congrats to him.”
Said wide receiver Henry Ruggs III: “He just laughs at it. He doesn’t really focus on personal accolades, just does what he has to do. He’s a great team player.”
Tagovailoa also had a 1-yard rushing score of his own. It’s worth noting he wasn’t wearing a knee brace for the first time since he injured his right one against Arkansas back on Oct. 6. He wouldn’t say he feels 100 percent, but he does “feel a lot better” since “the brace kind of restricted movement.”
Speaking of quarterbacks returning from an injury, Jalen Hurts played for the first time since the Tennessee game on Oct. 20, entering at the start of the fourth quarter. He was recovering from a high ankle sprain.
Saban said the plan was to play Hurts somewhere between 12 and 15 plays to “get a little rust off.” Hurts didn’t play that many, but he did complete 3 of his 4 passes for 31 yards and touchdown. He threw a 7-yard pass to wide receiver DeVonta Smith in the fourth quarter to score.
“To see Jalen come out and lead a scoring drive – he could have led another one but coach decided to take him out – it was really good,” Tagovailoa said.
Alabama finished with 561 total yards, breaking down into 371 passing and 190 rushing.
Tagovailoa completed 18 of his 22 passes – good for 82 percent – for 340 yards and the two touchdowns.
“For a guy that most people thought shouldn’t play in the game, I thought he responded really well by taking the challenge and going out there and doing what’s best for his team,” Saban said. “You know, all of our fans, they come to the game to see him play. So, I think that’s fair that he goes out and competes like every other player on our team.”
Reach Terrin Waack at email@example.com or at 205-722-0229.