COLUMBIA, S.C. — Tua Tagovailoa’s victory lap wasn’t supposed to happen as late as it did, but it will be etched in the University of Alabama’s football record book all the same.
When Xavier McKinney’s end-zone interception gave Alabama the ball quicker than it expected, it had not had the opportunity to get backup quarterback Mac Jones loose. Thus, with fewer than 10 minutes left with a 24-point lead, Tagovailoa threw one more pass: a 12-yard completion to Jaylen Waddle. That completion pushed Tagovailoa up to 28-for-36 for 444 yards and five touchdowns, all with no interceptions. He became the first UA quarterback to throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns in the same game as Alabama rolled in its SEC opener, 47-23 at South Carolina.
Tagovailoa’s 28 completions are tied for fifth in school history, tied with Jalen Hurts against Mississippi State in 2016, John Parker Wilson against Florida State in 2007 and Andrew Zow against Florida in 1999. The 77.7 completion percentage is seventh in school history among those with at least 20 completions and the 444 yards is third in school history, one behind Blake Sims’ 445 against Florida in 2014.
The 444 yards were a new career high and his eighth time going for 300 or more, the most in UA history. He now owns the school record for games with four or more passing touchdowns, now with eight, passing AJ McCarron.
Tagovailoa stands at 5,607 career passing yards, which is 19 yards behind Hurts for seventh in school history, 82 yards behind Jay Barker for sixth, 84 yards behind Greg McElroy for fifth and 376 yards behind Andrew Zow for fourth.
Tagovailoa’s performance also meant some new record book positions for his wide receivers.
Henry Ruggs III’s touchdown was the 19th of his career, tying him for third in school history with Calvin Ridley. Teammate Jerry Jeudy is still in second with 20.
Ruggs amassing 122 yards and DeVonta Smith recording 136 was the ninth time in school history two receivers have gone for 100 in the same game, four of those nine coming since the start of the 2018 season.
Ray to receive MRI
UA coach Nick Saban’s lone injury concern after the game was starting defensive lineman LaBryan Ray. He was a limited participant in Monday’s practice, based on the media viewing period, but returned later in the week. He had two tackles against the Gamecocks.
“He’s got that same foot that was bothering him in the game, so we’ll have to get an MRI and see what’s going on with that, figure it out probably out Sunday or Monday,” Saban said. “He may be the one guy that is out for some period of time, but we don’t really know the extent of the injury.”
Kaho thrown in
Second-team linebacker Ale Kaho was a regular fixture in the UA defense in the second half, and before the game got turned over to the reserves in the final minutes. Kaho took on several snaps with the first-team defense in the third quarter and ended the game with four tackles, one for a loss.
The sophomore was a highly touted prospect when he enrolled at Washington before shortly thereafter transferring to Alabama. The injuries to linebackers Dylan Moses and Joshua McMillion put freshmen Shane Lee and Christian Harris in the starting spot with Kaho as one of few right behind them. As South Carolina caused problems for UA’s linebackers, Kaho was seen as a solution.
“There was a lot of confusion with the young guys, the formations and some of the things they were doing,” Saban said. “We tried to get 8 (Harris) settled down by taking him out, put Kaho in for a series. We put him back in the game, but we decided to play Kaho a bit because he’s a good football player and he gets some experience himself.”
For the first time this season an Alabama opponent returned a kickoff out of the end zone. All of Will Reichard’s kickoff attempts this season have been touchbacks. Shi Smith returned the first-quarter kickoff 14 yards. Alabama had 18 kickoffs with no returns entering Saturday’s game.
Saban vs. Muschamp
South Carolina head coach Will Muschamp was an assistant under Saban at LSU in 2001-03 and with the NFL Miami Dolphins from 2004-2006. Muschamp later became head coach at Florida and went head-to-head with Saban in 2011 (Alabama won 38-10) and again in 2014 (Alabama won 42-21). Muschamp’s loss Saturday to Saban makes him 0-3 against his old boss.
Overall, former Saban assistants are 0-for-17.
Edwin Stanton contributed to this report