Inside the locker room, minutes after the trajectory of his football career was altered and his future as Alabama's starting quarterback was thrust into uncertainty, Jalen Hurts received some kind words from the coach who pulled him.
"Give (Alabama) credit, but I think everybody can see that Georgia's going to be a force to be reckoned with", Smart said.
Austin Griswold, an Army ROTC cadet at the University of Alabama, met the commander in chief during the College Football Playoff championship game between Alabama and the University of Georgia on January 8. "I'm so happy for him and so happy for the team".
Tagovailoa got his first first-down with his legs but then started connecting with his receivers. When a college football season can manage to make Alabama winning a national title entertaining and enjoyable, you know it was a good year.
After trailing 13-0 at the half, coach Nick Saban switched quarterback by putting in Tagovailoa in the third quarter to change the flow of the game.
The coach said that nothing is ever too big for the player he and his Saint Louis School players called Reverend Tagovailoa because he would recite passages from the Bible and relate them to their situation on the field. Tagovailoa played with poise and the momentum shifted towards the Tide.
Najee Harris led Alabama in rushing with 64 yards on six carries, all of which came in the fourth quarter.
"I just thought we needed to throw the ball in the game, and I thought he could do it better", Saban said of the true freshman out of Hawaii. Alabama forced overtime when Tagovailoa hit Calvin Ridley for a 7-yard touchdown pass on a 4th-down play with 3:49 remaining, capping its rally from a 13-point halftime deficit.
Indeed, former Alabama offensive coordinator Lane Kiffin made headlines on Tuesday when he said on the "Dan Patrick Show" that he had "no doubt" Tagovailoa would have transferred had he not been put into the game against Georgia. Last year's game was watched on ESPN by 24.4 million viewers, with 25.7 million watching in 2016.
"I thought it was unbelievable for the nation to see what we already knew about Tua Tagovailoa", Passas said.
What started out as a snoozefest, wound up being one the best national championship games in recent history. The only other team that came close was, well, Alabama. It is also Saban's second championship win since the new playoff system was installed. Instead, the Georgia offense squandered the opportunity on the very next play, as an attempted pass by Jake Fromm deflected off a helmet and was intercepted by Alabama defensive lineman Raekwon Davis, who returned the ball to the Georgia 40-yard line. Of the last 11 title games, the SEC has won nine. "I looked back out, and he was wide open".