ATLANTA — Playing in his first extensive action of the season, Alabama freshman Tua Tagovailoa led a furious comeback against Georgia to earn offensive MVP honors on Monday night.
Tagovailoa was named Offensive MVP after going 14 of 24 for 166 yards, 3 scores through the air and 27 yards on the ground, all in the second half after he came in for Jalen Hurts.
On defense, junior Da’Ron Payne was named the Defensive MVP with 6 tackles.
Tagovailoa provided Alabama with a spark in the second half after Georgia jumped out to a 13-0 first-half lead.
On his second drive, Tagovailoa escaped a sack and scampered for 9 yards. While the run wasn’t far, it was a gutsy play that helped the freshman settle in.
“I felt like that we’ve had this in our mind that, if we were struggling offensively, that we would give Tua an opportunity, even in the last game,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said of Tagovailoa. “No disrespect to Jalen, but the real thought was, you know, they came into the game thinking we were going to run the ball and be able to run quarterback runs, which we made a couple of explosive plays on. But with the absence of a passing game and being able to make explosive plays and being able to convert on third down, I just didn’t feel we could run the ball well enough and I thought Tua would give us a better chance and a spark, which he certainly did.
“I couldn’t be prouder of him taking advantage of the opportunity. We have total confidence in him. We played him a lot in a lot of games this year, and he did very well. He certainly did a great job tonight.”
Payne was one of the standout performers on Alabama’s defense. He was also named Defensive MVP following Alabama’s Sugar Bowl win against Clemson.
“I just wanted to go out there and just give it my all and just leave it all on the field,” Payne said. “No matter what happened in the outcome of the game, I just knew I gave everything. I think I did that both games, and it just came — my dream came true.”