We Re-Watched Tua Tagovailoa Against Georgia & Here’s What We Learned

    No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Georgia will face off in the SEC Championship at 4 p.m. ET Saturday at Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a rematch of last

    November 28, 2018

    No. 1 Alabama and No. 4 Georgia will face off in the SEC Championship at 4 p.m. ET Saturday at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium in a rematch of last season’s National Championship Game with a bid to this season’s College Football Playoff on the line.

    Alabama sophomore QB Tua Tagovailoa, then a freshman in last season’s championship game, came off the bench in the second half to rally the Crimson Tide to a 26-23 win in overtime after falling behind 13-0 at halftime.

    We re-watched every snap that Tagovailoa took in the game to see what we could learn ahead of Saturday’s conference championship matchup. Here are our takeaways.

    Alabama loved running play-action on the first play of a drive, but Tua missed his touchdown chances

    On four of Alabama’s first seven offensive possessions of the second half, the Crimson Tide ran play-action. The first time Alabama dialed it up — on the first play of their second possession in the second half following a three-and-out in Tagovailoa’s first series — the Crimson Tide nearly scored.

    Georgia’s linebackers stayed in the box while Alabama’s leading wide receiver, Calvin Ridley (running on the far hash marks), faced single coverage from a lone safety.

    Tagovailoa had strong protection in the pocket.

    Alabama could have potentially scored a touchdown on the play if Tagovailoa hit Ridley in stride. At the very least, it would’ve been more than a 40-yard completion if Ridley was tackled before he reached the end zone.

    But Tagovailoa’s throw was just out of reach of the outstretched arms of Ridley.

    It was one of five plays in the second half that could’ve potentially resulted in a touchdown for Alabama and you could argue four were incomplete because of the ball placement.

    Here are the others.

    These screenshots aren’t to disparage Alabama’s quarterback.

    In all likelihood, the Crimson Tide doesn’t win the national championship without Tagovailoa, who was 14-of-24 for 166 yards, three touchdowns and one interception.

    But the truth is that Alabama could’ve won in regulation, potentially by more than one score, with better ball placement on its shots to the end zone. Those are also throws that Tagovailoa likely completes this season after a full year of taking first-team snaps as the team’s starter, which means Georgia will likely have to play an even better game on Saturday than it did in the national championship game in order to win.

    He’s no Jalen Hurts as a runner, but Tua’s legs were a threat even last season

    Tua Tagovailoa is a different (read: more dynamic) quarterback than Jalen Hurts because of his pro-level arm and his ability to run as a way to extend passing plays. He has 45 carries for 211 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns, which is nowhere near Jalen Hurts’ sophomore-year stats of 154 carries for 855 rushing yards and eight TDs. But Tagovailoa is still able to run read option plays, designed quarterback runs and extend plays by scrambling while keeping his eyes downfield to look for an open receiver.

    Alabama’s game-tying touchdown in the final four minutes was made possible by Tagovailoa moving in the pocket to avoid pressure. (For the record, the touchdown pass to Calvin Ridley was definitely intended for running back Najee Harris.)

    On the final drive of regulation, when Alabama missed a potential game-winning field goal, Tagovailoa ran four quarterback keepers in a five-play stretch to pick up a valuable first down and eat the clock. His legs can be a valuable resource, especially if the SEC Championship is a low-scoring, one-possession game, because it limits the chances of a fumble on a hand-off to a running back and he can get to the team’s preferred hash mark for a potential field goal.

    The first play of Alabama’s seventh drive in the second half showed just how dangerous the combination of Tagovailoa’s legs and arm are when he’s surrounded by talented wide receivers and running backs.

    Tagovailoa faked a sweep to running back Damien Harris, then faked a quarterback run up the middle and threw a screen pass to Harris for a gain of 17 yards. There are countless variations of run and pass plays off of a double play-action fake like that, which is how Alabama is averaging 49 points per game this season.

    If Tagovailoa gets the ball out accurately on Saturday, the Bulldogs could be in serious trouble.

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