Nick Saban Wins His Sixth National Championship in Dramatic Fashion
by Nick Grott
This new year introduced not only another NCAA football champion, but also one of the best college football games ever. The National Championship was played in Tampa Bay, with the two best teams coming together in the final match of the season: the perennial powerhouse, the Alabama Crimson Tide, and the underdog Georgia Bulldogs, who came off of an intense overtime win against the Oklahoma Sooners and Baker Mayfield.
Both teams had a young roster, with several true freshman starting on both sides of the ball--most notably Georgia quarterback, Jake Fromm, who started the season with seemingly little potential to become a star. The focus of the quick offense was on Sony Michel, the senior running back who racked up more than 1,200 yards throughout the season and scored 16 touchdowns. The game pitted Georgia's potent running game against Alabama's stout rushing defense. On the other hand, Alabama's defense was known to keep even the best offenses under 20 points, and, with the focus on stopping the run game, Fromm was asked to step up to throw the ball deep for big plays.
Georgia's offense dominated the game early and had twice as many offensive plays as Alabama, who had not managed to sustain a drive throughout the contest. The Bulldogs had the ball for nearly the entire first half, slowly moving down the field with medium passes and some rare long gains. With Michel being watched tightly by the Tide’s defensive line, it was Fromm’s game to take charge of. The first half ended with the Georgia Bulldogs up 13-0 against the favorites.
Alabama is led by arguably the best college football coach in the game, Nick Saban, while Georgia is coached by Kirby Smart, who spent nine years as Saban’s assistant coach and was looking to best his master by bringing the Peach State its first title since 1980. No former assistant coach has ever beaten Saban. Perhaps this was enough to throw the Bulldogs off and allow Alabama back into the game. In the start of the second half, Alabama managed to put points on the board, but ended the quarter down 20-7.
The fourth quarter was tight, as down the stretch, the more experienced Saban was able to coach his team within a touchdown. Down to what might have been their last play, Alabama freshman quarterback, Tua Tagovailoa, flung the ball to the endzone on fourth down and connected with wide receiver Calvin Ridley. The game was tied, but Georgia had a chance to possibly put the game away. After unsuccessful tests of the ‘Bama defense through the air, and then with Michel on the ground, they were forced to punt with under two minutes on the clock. In a final attempt to win the game, Tagovailoa managed to give the Alabama kicker a last second chance to kick what would have been the game winning field goal. The ball was snapped, Alabama blocked well and, and from 36 yards away, he missed. The game was going into overtime and the crowd was in shock.
Georgia went first and quickly managed a safe field goal of their own, putting them in good shape, especially after a 16-yard sack of Tagovailoa on Alabama's first play. Alabama had very poor field position, but all they needed was a few yards to put them in field goal range. With Georgia's eye on Alabama’s star running back, Bo Scarbrough, the true freshman quarterback decided to throw the ball down the sideline, risking an incompletion or possibly an interception. But Tagovailoa found wide receiver DeVonta Smith streaking down the left sideline for a touchdown, and Alabama's fifth national championship in nine seasons. The game ended 26-23, giving Saban his sixth national championship, tying him with the famous Bear Bryant for the most of all time.