I’m pretty sure most folks couldn’t have cared less about last night’s football contest between the University of Alabama’s Crimson Tide and the University of Georgia’s Bulldogs to determine the 2018 collegiate National Championship. For one, both teams are in the Southeastern Conference, and if you think the SEC is overrated, this title game only added another burr in your saddle.
Plus, one of the participating teams was the University of Alabama, a team that many both hate and are tired of hearing about. Even as an Alabama fan, I’ve long felt that they overachieved and weren’t nearly as good as the media wants them to be.
Added to the fact that Georgia beat the University of Oklahoma (in another super-close, down-to-the-wire classic game), a team that I’m sure most folks wanted to see in the title game with their Heisman-winning cornerback Baker Mayfield, and that Alabama beat Clemson (which I’m sure nobody was happy about), this particular game wasn’t exactly high up on the not-a-college-football-fan list of Monday-evening must-watches.
Which is a damn shame because if you didn’t watch, you missed a classic! It ended up being a nail-biter until the VERY end and included several instances of me wanting to take shots of Jameson mixed with Bulleit and cursing the name of Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos for failing in what has to be the most high-pressure situation he could be in. DO YOUR DAMN JOB, ANDY. I’m a sports fan; rational understanding and compassion in the face of failures is not what we do well.
The first half was the snoozefest that most expected out of this game. Georgia’s offense is more high-powered with their dual-threat awesome backs Nick Chubb and Sony Michel and true freshman Jake Fromm, and they managed to put points on the board in often dramatic fashion. Alabama, though, man—talk about an anemic offense that didn’t rely on jack shit that got them there.
Jalen Hurts, Alabama’s quarterback, couldn’t get shit going. Alabama’s defense has long been its bread and butter, largely relying on game-manager quarterbacks and solid receivers and a good running attack. That was still the case this year but not as potent as it had been in years past. That whole first half was Alabama looking like they were about to lose for the second year in a row.
Then something happened. Kendrick Lamar performed a fairly underwhelming, uninspired performance, playing it straight without any politics or extras. But somehow, Nick Saban got on his “be humble” and realized, “Hey, if I make a change, then my left stroke might also go viral.”
He benched Jalen Hurts for true-freshman next-man-up quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and all of a sudden Alabama was an exciting offense, still with lots of missteps—freshmen gon’ freshmen—but looking like an offense with some excitement. We got touchdowns, we got defensive stops AT THE SAME DAMN TIME.
Tua, with the über-super-sportsmanlike encouragement of Hurts, put the Tide on his back, and bong bong we had a whole new ball game. As an Alabama fan, I found myself standing up in my living room and trying to find Tua’s Amazon wish list so I could send him a nice gift. He was playing like he wanted to win, and he was willing to carry it on his shoulders.
The Tide tied the game up on an awesome Calvin Ridley touchdown that—and I don’t care what anybody says—was a busted play where Tua basically just threw the ball into the end zone and Ridley went and got it. It was a hell of a play, and if he keeps that up, he’ll be the QB of note for the next two to three years in Tuscaloosa, Ala., and the nation.
Alabama put the brakes on Georgia and had the chance to win the game before midnight. But God knew I needed another 20 minutes of game time, and Pappanastos duffed a gimme-ass field goal. Look—I don’t know that man, and I’m sure (or at least I hope) he’s a good human being. I just don’t ever want to see him kick another football in a meaningful situation again. Ever.
In overtime, Georgia kicked a long field goal and I got scurred. But we have Tua, and Tua (probably) drinks Sprite (sometimes). My man made a rookie mistake on the first down and lost all the yards. But on the next play, he hit freshman receiver DeVonta Smith in stride, and I jumped off my couch and fist-pumped the air at least seven times, did the Kid ’n Play with an invisible homie and texted my best friend as we determined that Tua became legend, except without a dead dog and zombies and Will Smith talking to mannequins.
I currently have on an Alabama hoodie because I need everybody to know that I rep this shit the long way. Roll Tide, and I’m glad that we got a classic out of the national championship game and that Alabama is back on top in a year when they could have easily and justifiably been left on the outside of the playoff picture looking in. Even if you aren’t a college football fan OR if you (understandably) hate Alabama, last night’s game was one that everybody could enjoy after halftime.
Thank you, Kung Fu Kenny, for inspiring the Crimson Tide. Thank you, Tua, for going beast mode.