Setting the table
As the old adage goes, when life gives you lemons, another window will open…or something like that. We were never necessarily good with old adages. But you get the point. And in a possibly the greatest college football game of all time, that adage was never truer.
Ultimately Alabama’s 2018 National Championship was won on March 3, 2016. That was when the Tide had a committed 4-star QB decommit and commit to SEC rival Georgia. That commit? Jake Fromm.
Fromm was originally recruited by Kirby Smart when he was still a coordinator at Alabama. However, after he took the Georgia job, he immediately offered Jake. Being from Georgia and playing for his hometown Dawgs, it was an offer that Fromm couldn’t refuse.
It was a great pick up for Georgia. It not only strengthened the most important position on the field, it simultaneously weakened an SEC rival. The Tide were now down a quarterback, and seeing as how they hadn’t won a championship in the last few hours, their fans were rabid.
The savior from Hawaii?
Enter Tua Tagovailoa (pronounced Too-uh) a fellow 4-star quarterback, who up until that point had primarily received offers on the West Coast from schools such as USC & Oregon. Out of St. Louis High School in Honolulu, Hawaii, the thought of playing for Alabama probably hadn’t crossed Tagovailoa’s mind. However, with Fromm now out of the fold, Tide head coach Nick Saban turned his attention to the left-handed, dual-threat QB from the Islands.
Often, when Nick Saban and Alabama start scouting a player, other teams start suddenly taking note of said player. After all, it’s hard to argue against their success. And as the Tide head coach’s attention on Tua increased, so did the rest of the country. As the spotlight brightened, Tagovailoa’s talents were more prominently featured and his visibility increased. As a result, he shot up the ranking boards, obtaining 5-star status before ultimately signing with the Crimson Tide.However, as the season started, it seemed that would be the only way for Jake Fromm and Tua Tagovailoa would be linked for the foreseeable future. While both were playing for SEC schools, both were firmly entrenched as backups behind incumbent starters. Fromm was behind Jacob Eason, son of former NFL QB Tony Eason, the highly touted prospect who had yet to live up to the high expectations. (Side note- did you know that Tony Eason turned in one of the worst Super Bowl performances of all time with the 1985 New England Patriots? He went 0-6, with 0 yds passing, 3 sacks, and a fumble. Ouch! Oof! Owie!) However, when Jacob went down with an injury in the first game of the season, the door was slightly ajar for Fromm. When the native Georgian led the underdog Dawgs into South Bend and beat the Fighting Irish the very next week, he had all but kicked that door off its hinges. Eason got healthy, but Fromm played too well for Kirby Smart to make a change. Fromm led the Bulldogs to a 12-1 regular season record, an SEC Championship, birth in the CFP, and an eventual spot in the National Title Game versus Alabama.Meanwhile in Tuscaloosa, the playing field seemed even further away Tagovailoa. QB Jalen Hurts was the starter and had led the Tide to within one single second of winning the National Title the year before versus Clemson during his own freshman campaign. That was his only loss of the year. As the Tide started out this year winning as they always do, Tua mainly only saw the field when the game was already decided, such as against the Commodores of Vanderbilt or the Fighting-whatever-their-mascot-is of Mercer. However, Hurts never really won over the fans from Tuscaloosa. Apparently, losing one game per year was just too much failure for Tide fans to endure. They even openly wondered if Tagovailoa would be a better fit, despite his language barriers:
Alabama has a freshman quarterback from Hawaii, and at least one fan is concerned pic.twitter.com/uKxTpVz1hm
— Ben Reiter (@BenReiter) September 13, 2017
Still, Tua (presumably with his translator) remained on the sidelines. As the Tide once again (SURPRISE!) made the CFP and eventual Title game versus Georgia, it appeared that Hurts was in position to finish the job this year, and lead the Tide to a championship. However, as they say nowadays in Hollywood, fate is a fickle
sexual harasser mistress.On one half of the coin, Georgia QB Jake Fromm was leading the charge against the Crimson Tide. Was an upstart true freshman quarterback really going to take down Nick Saban and the vaunted Alabama defense. It certainly appeared that way, as the Dawgs led 13-0 at halftime. Were we witnessing a changing of the guard in college football?
On the other half of the coin, Alabama sputtered to a 13-0 halftime deficit, as QB Jalen Hurts was unable to get the Tide offense going against the hungry Georgia defense. So Nick Saban made a change.Enter the Indemnifyin’ Hawaiian…actually, that’s not really a good nickname. In fact, it was terrible. The Semidryin’ Hawaiian? Ok, forget it. Enter Tua Tagovailoa from Hawaii. And the two former highly sought after recruits’ destinies were once again intertwined. After a three-and-out in which he got his game legs under him, Tagovailoa, the laser-armed lefty, came out slinging it, and led Alabama to their first score of the game. It was now 13-7 Dawgs and destiny was in motion.
Now, it was Jake Fromm’s turn, and the Georgia native isn’t easily rattled. With The Crimson Tide ready to take all of the momentum and flip the game completely, the Georgia QB showed the poise and rifle arm that had gotten the Bulldogs to that point in the season, as he threw an 80-yard bomb to Mecole Hardman to put the Dawgs up 20-7.And Tagovailoa wasn’t going anywhere either. The wheels of destiny were already spinning. Despite never even starting or playing an entire game all year and this being the National Championship game, Tua played with the poise and calmness of someone that would not be overwhelmed. An anti-Tony Eason, if you will. He led the Crimson Tide all the way back, tying up the game in regulation. The Honolulu native took every second half snap except the one where Jalen Hurts downed the ball, setting up the potential game-winning field goal (cue Alabama fans criticizing Hurts for centering the ball too far to the left). After kicker Andy Pappanastos badly shanked an easy 36-yard attempt, the two young QBs readied their respective teams for overtime.
After Fromm led Georgia to an opening FG (note- Jake was done no favors down the stretch by the Bulldogs’ offensive playcalling, but we digress), it was Tagovailoa’s turn. After a terrible sack on 1st down that lost 16-yards, the Tide was facing the very real possibility of a long and difficult game-tying FG attempt (cue an absolutely terrified Andy Pappanastos
shitting defecating bricks). Then destiny:
A brilliant pass by Tagovailoa, as he looked off the safety until the absolute last second, and once again the Alabama Crimson Tide were National Champs. It was a heart breaking defeat for the Bulldogs, who were so close they could almost taste it.
A bright future for all
As much as it stings (and it will always sting) for Georgia fans, the future is blindingly bright. And the main reason is their talented young quarterback that was once committed to Alabama, Jake Fromm. Per usual, Alabama’s future is always bright. And an unexpected reason is their talented young quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa. Two true freshman quarterbacks, whose fates were innocuously intertwined before a down was played this year, were once again intertwined at the final gun on the biggest stage in the college football. The fact they play in the same conference sets up the possibility of these two going up against each other for the next three years, and perhaps beyond. Maybe it’s setting up to be the modern day era Bird vs Magic of football (sans the short shorts). Who knows?
Whatever happens, it will be interesting. Because in a weird twist of irony, the unlikely hero that won Alabama the championship wasn’t Tua Tagovailoa. It was Jake Fromm. And neither Alabama nor Georgia would have it any other way.
PS- The Hawaiian Lion. NAILED IT!