ATLANTA—Alabama’s latest group of hotshot recruits delivered on college football’s biggest stage.
Quarterback Tua Tagovailoa capped a second-half comeback with a 41-yard touchdown pass in overtime to fellow freshman DeVonta Smith in Monday night’s 26-23 win over Georgia to give the Tide a fifth national championship in nine years.
The youth movement started well before that play. It featured runs by Najee Harris and a touchdown reception by Henry Ruggs III with help from a big catch by Jerry Jeudy.
“When the game that mattered most came around and we got opportunities, we made the most out of it,” Harris said.
The outgoing stars passed the torch to the next wave a little earlier than expected.
Tagovailoa replaced starter Jalen Hurts to start the second half with Alabama down 13-0. He passed for 166 yards and three touchdowns and flashed some running ability, too.
Harris ran for 64 yards on six carries and delivered some big fourth-quarter runs. He had a 16-yarder and a 35-yarder to set up a field goal and help keep Alabama alive.
Ruggs caught a 6-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter. Jeudy had a 20-yard catch on Alabama’s tying touchdown drive late in the fourth.
Then came Smith and Tagovailoa and a final freshman connection on second and 26 after a sack.
“I looked at Tua and said, ‘Trust me,’ and he nodded his head,” Smith said. “When I saw they were in Cover 2, I knew we had a chance.”
The freshmen were matter of fact about their accomplishments. Making plays and winning titles is why the prized recruits came to Alabama, after all.