Jalen Hurts spent most of the season watching from the sidelines, cheering on the guy who had taken his job, and hoping for another chance to lead the Alabama Crimson Tide.
He did not sulk. He did not hurt. He did not change.
On Saturday, when Alabama's season was in limbo, Hurts got the call.
The junior quarterback threw a touchdown and ran on the clock for another with just over a minute
It was a stunning turn of the scenario that took place less than 11 months earlier in the same field.
19659005] "I've probably never been more proud of a player than Jalen," said Nick Saban, an emotional coach, moments after the triumph.
If they had brought this script to Hollywood, it would have been laughed out of English space to be too implausible.
Tua Tagovailoa replaced ineffective hurts with Alabama (13-0) at the start of the second half in last season's national team match at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium between these two teams.
] The substitute threw three touchdown passes After over 41 meters, the Tide scored an impressive 26-23 victory.
Tagovailoa won the start job this season and was brilliant before Saturday. He had 36 touchdown passes with only two interceptions.
The SEC title game went a different way. Tagovailoa, who was picked up twice, had left quite a blow, spent much of his spare time in the medical tent, and was largely ineffective as the Bulldogs built two two-contact leads.
Eventually, Tagovailoa finally came to a standstill with just over eleven minutes remaining when one of his own linemen stepped on his right foot as he tried to throw.
Enter Hurts, who had set a 26: 2 record as a starter before Tagovailoa demanded the job.
He quietly led the Crimson Tide to a game-binding touchdown with a 10-yard pass to Jerry Jeudy, who shortened a 16-block with 80 stops – a ride that lasted more than 7 minutes.
After the Bulldogs were stuffed on a fake punk near midfield, Hurts took the matter into his own hands to claim victory. In the middle, he discovered a 15-yard TD run with remaining 1: 4.
"It's unparalleled to have a man who has won as many games as he has won … just as a freshman too You start losing a few games all the time when he was the starter, and then suddenly he's not the quarterback, "said Saban.
"How do you handle this? How do you deal with it? How do you handle it? You have to have a tremendous amount of class and character to put the team first, knowing that your situation is not that's how it used to be. "
Hurts completed 7 of 9 passes for 82 yards to go with five carries for 28 yards in less than a quarter of the action.
"It feels like breaking my silence," Hurts said.
He spoke loud and clear against the bulldogs. And when he trotted off the field after the winner TD, Tagovailoa was one of the first teammates to greet him.
After that, they stood side by side on the podium in the middle of the field, while Alabama received his SEC championship trophy.
"When he came into play," linebacker Mack Wilson said, "I told Dylan Moses:" Man, it's like Deja Vu. "I said," Watch how he goes in. " and bring us back and win the game. & # 39; I knew he would do that, and I'm pretty sure everyone else did that as well. "
The Crimson Tide returns to the College Football playoffs is looking for the second national title in a row and the sixth of the last decade under Saban.
"I know there's always a way to win in Alabama," said Hurts. "I'm so happy, so happy for everyone."
Georgia can make a pretty good case for the playoffs but the Bulldogs are probably left out. Oklahoma 12-1 defeated his only defeat when defeating Texas, and Ohio State (12-1) beat Northwestern in the Big Ten title game. He has quickly turned Georgia into a national center of power, but he keeps his ex-boss.
For the second time in less than a year, the Bulldogs wereted a double-digit lead over the Crimson Tide. Although this game did not end with the suddenness of this national title game, it hurt as well. The Bulldogs had another chance to knock off the team that had been # 1 in the polls all season, a team that may have built the biggest dynasty in the history of college football.
"With such a team you have to enable them to stay on," said Isaac Nauta, "They have been doing this for many years."
The Associated Press contributed to this report at