I haven’t brought myself to the stage where I’m ready to draft my Observations post yet, but I do want to note that Seth Emerson nails what I thought were the two biggest plays of the national title game:
Tagovailoa’s third-down scramble: Alabama was facing third-and-7 near midfield on its second drive of the second half. Tagovailoa was pressure to the right, but escaped and went left for nine yards and a first down. Five plays later the Crimson Tide got a touchdown to make it 13-7. On the scramble, four different Bulldogs got hands on him – Bellamy, D’Andre Walker, Trenton Thompson and Roquan Smith – and couldn’t bring him down. Yeah, those are missed tackles, but those are also really good players, and on that play Tagovailoa simply made a great play. There was also no contain to the left side.
Either way, it was a confidence-boosting spark for Tagovailoa and the Alabama offense.
Jake Fromm’s second interception and the run-back: Deandre Baker had just picked off a pass at the Alabama 39. This was a prime opportunity to build on a 13-point lead, and with less time left in the game it could’ve been a knockout blow.
Fromm, committing a rare mistake, violated the old Mike Bobo rule of not turning a bad play into a catastrophe. Fromm was initially pressured by Payne – who had gone by Lamont Gaillard – and with Deshawn Hand (being blocked by Kendall Baker) right in front of him, Fromm tried to dump it off to Sony Michel, who was indeed open right in front of him. But Fromm threw it before he looked up all the way, so it doinked off Hank’s helmet. Alabama’s Raekwon Davis had great awareness, grabbing it out of the air and then rumbling down to the Georgia 40.
Watching Tagovailoa escape the grasps of a number of Dawg defenders who had collapsed the pocket was the most frustrating moment of the evening. Sack him there and I really believe Alabama never recovers; instead, that play was the spark that lit the second-half comeback.
As for the pick, yeah, it was a combination of a bad decision by Fromm (although with Payne bearing down on his ass, an understandably bad decision) and some bad luck with the deflection, but for all the complaining about the conservative playcalling in the second half, I was questioning why Georgia wasn’t running the ball in that situation anyway. Starting inside the ‘Bama 40 with the night Blankenship was having, ten yards would have likely netted three points at a time when a sixteen-point lead might have proven insurmountable.
In any event, those two plays go differently, and the refs’ bad night wouldn’t have made any difference.