Tiger Stadium is called Death Valley for a reason, and Tua Tagovailoa hasn’t played on those burial grounds. Not yet at least. Alabama’s sophomore quarterback will get his chance Saturday.
“I heard it’s really loud over there,” Tagovailoa said. “I heard that it’s a really hostile environment that we’re going to.”
Everything for Tagovailoa is hearsay at this point, but his teammates know from experience and share stories.
The last time Alabama was in Baton Rouge it went into the fourth quarter scoreless, and so did LSU. The game finished with a Crimson Tide 10-0 victory.
“Their fans were screaming,” UA defensive back Deionte Thompson said. “They weren’t quiet the whole game. That’s the kind of game you have to expect when you go to LSU.”
Said Alabama running back Damien Harris: “It was an unbelievable environment, one of the top meetings in college football. So we’re not expecting anything different this week.”
Safe to say Tagovailoa has an idea of what to expect for his first time at LSU. But he also thought Tennessee was very loud, so he might be in for a surprise.
Alabama’s away-from-home games this season have consisted of a neutral-site game in Orlando, the Ole Miss game in Oxford, the Arkansas game in Fayetteville and the Tennessee game in Knoxville.
“I think Tua has demonstrated that he is able to stay in the moment in terms of being able to execute,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “I think that it’s going to be really, really important in the atmosphere and against the good team that we’re going to play, especially the way they play defense.”
LSU is third in the conference and seventh in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an average of just 15.1 points per game. It has snagged 17 interceptions, tying for the most by any team.
Meanwhile, in 152 pass attempts, Tagovailoa hasn’t thrown a single interception this season. He credits his coaching and the play calls.
“There’s been plenty of times where I should have thrown an interception,” Tagovailoa said. “But I was lucky the guys didn’t catch the ball.”
If his luck happens to run out, Tagovailoa know how he responds will be what’s important. That goes for any mistake at any position.
This weekend will also be the Crimson Tide’s first top-five matchup this season. The last time Tagovailoa played in such a close-ranked game was the 2018 College Football Playoff National Championship, when he entered in a backup role after halftime and ultimately won Alabama the title with a 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime.
LSU’s secondary has been holding opponents to 199.8 passing yards per game and a 50.6-percent completion rate. Tagovailoa is averaging 258.2 yards through the air per game and completing 70.4 percent of his shots. He has thrown for 25 touchdowns. He still has yet to play in the fourth quarter.
“It’s one of those thing where you just have to play it a play at a time,” Tagovailoa said. “You just take it a play at a time and go from there.”
Reach Terrin Waack at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 205-722-0229.