The Alabama Crimson Tide rolled over Georgia Monday, 26–23, clinching the College Football Playoff National Championship in a nail-biting game that ended in overtime with a stunning pass from a freshman quarterback.
The victory is a triumphant return to form for Alabama after last year's surprise loss to Clemson in the national championship. The win gives Alabama head coach Nick Saban his sixth national title — and his fifth with the Crimson Tide — tying with his legendary predecessor Bear Bryant for the most national championships in college football history.
Alabama, who last won the title in 2016, initially faltered against Georgia's defense, and trailed the Bulldogs by 13 points going into halftime. But a switch to backup quarterback Tua Tagovailoa gave the Tide the spark they needed to stage a comeback.
After tying the Bulldogs in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa, a freshman, led the team into a dramatic overtime, throwing a 41-yard pass to DeVonta Smith that ended the game.
The game, played at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, kicked off with an appearance from President Donald Trump, who was greeted with cheers — and a smattering of boos — as he walked onto the field with members of the ROTC during the pregame festivities.
After that, both teams got off to a slow start, with neither managing to score in the first quarter. Georgia finally pulled ahead in the second, scoring several times, and headed into halftime with a touchdown that gave them a hefty lead over their opponents.
But Alabama fought back in the second half, after replacing starting quarterback Jalen Hurts with Tagovailoa.
Midway through the third quarter, Tagovailoa, who is from Hawaii, drove the ball down with a series of running and passing plays, ultimately scoring a touchdown.
Before the quarter ended, though, Georgia had scored again, with quarterback Jake Fromm throwing a lengthy forward pass to Mecole Hardman, who broke away and crossed into the end zone, giving the Bulldogs a 20–10 lead.
But Alabama wasn't going anywhere. And by the end of the fourth quarter, the game that had looked like it was Georgia's to lose was tied.
Alabama's prospects initially seemed to dim in overtime, with Georgia crushing a field goal that put them temporarily in the lead. Back on offense, Tagovailoa was quickly sacked by Georgia's defenders.
But he found wide receiver DeVonta Smith, and hit him with a perfect pass as he sprinted into the end zone, giving Alabama the final, winning touchdown.
After the game, Tagovailoa, a freshman, described being told by Saban that he would start the second half, saying the coach made the announcement to the quarterbacks in the locker room.
“It was a team effort tonight,” Tagovailoa said. “You know, I mean, I couldn't have done without our defense getting the ball back. It was a great team effort.”
Saban praised his players for the impressive comeback, noting that the team had had spent the first half of the game "shooting ourselves in the foot left and right."
"This is a great win for our players," he added, "and I've never been happier in my life."
The game was a fresh heartbreak for Georgia, which has not won a national football championship since 1980. The Bulldogs had arrived at Monday's game fresh off their victory in the Rose Bowl, where the team beat Oklahoma in double overtime 54–48.
Speaking to reporters after the game, Georgia head coach Kirby Smart — a former Alabama assistant coach who worked under Saban until returning to his alma mater in 2015 — said that despite the loss, his team's performance Monday demonstrated the school's standing in college football.
"I think everybody can see that Georgia's going to be a force to be reckoned with," Smart said. "I'm very proud of this team and this university, and we're not going anywhere."