• 72°

Alabama’s Saban: ‘Game I’ll never forget’

Alabama wins another football national championship

Alabama players celebrate after overtime of the NCAA college football playoff championship game against Georgia Monday, Jan. 8, 2018, in Atlanta. Alabama won 26-23. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

By John Zenor

AP Sports Writer

ATLANTA (AP) — Nick Saban wins one title and moves on to figuring out how to get the next.

It’s part of his famed Process.

But Saban’s sixth national title , and fifth in nine years, was different and not just because it put him in a tie with Alabama icon Bear Bryant for the most by any major college football coach. This time one quarterback, Jalen Hurts, led the Crimson Tide into the championship game and another, freshman Tua Tagovoila, directed a second-half comeback in Monday night’s 26-23 overtime win over Georgia .

A quarterback battle seems inevitable.

But Saban has months to figure out which quaterback gives Alabama (13-1) the best chance for a repeat. He allows himself far less time to celebrate actually winning titles, even ones as dramatic as this one. That doesn’t mean he won’t remember it fondly.

“This will be a game that I’ll never forget” Saban said Tuesday morning.

Trailing 13-0 at halftime, Saban turned to Tagovailoa. The five-star lefty from Hawaii delivered in a big way , threading a fourth-down pass to Calvin Ridley for a tying touchdown late and then leading a drive for a potential winning field goal. Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yarder to send the game into overtime.

After the Bulldogs (13-2) settled for a field goal, Tagovailoa was sacked. He responded with a 41-yard touchdown pass to fellow freshman DeVonta Smith to touch off the latest confetti-dripping celebration for Alabama a year after absorbing a last-second loss to Clemson in the championship game.

It set the stage for a quarterback competition between Tagovailoa and Hurts, who is 26-2 as a starter and has helped Alabama make two title game appearances.

Tagovailoa was named offensive player of the game, making plays running and passing. What he didn’t do: sleep much before attending a morning-after news conference.

“I couldn’t sleep because, if I slept, I would have never woken up to come to this thing,” he said. “Aside from that, it was a good team win. I still can’t believe that this is what happened. It just feels like another game.”

Just another game. Just another title.

As usual, Saban sounded ready to get back to the business of pursuing another. The coach said he spoke to seven players who are considering leaving early to enter the NFL draft. The group of potential early entries includes All-America safety Minkah Fitzpatrick, tailback Damien Harris, wide receiver Calvin Ridley and defensive lineman Da’Ron Payne.

Saban believes several of them probably should leave and several should return and try to boost their draft stock.

Then Saban was on to planning things like Thursday’s team meeting. But he understands that championships create “a lifelong legacy that everybody lives with.” After all, he said there’s still a sign in Monongah, W. Va., celebrating the 1968 state championship team he played on.

He said someone even recently sent him a license plate saying “1968 state champs.”

“Everybody realizes the sacrifices and the adversity that you had to overcome to do it and the hard work you put in to do it,” Saban said. “And I think it’s something that you never forget. It becomes a part of the legacy of that team.

“But I also think that, if you’re a competitor and you’re a player, whether you’re a coach or a player or any part of the organization, in 24 hours you probably need to move on because there’s another challenge and basically you created a target for yourself in the future in terms of people who want to beat you.”

This team won despite losing four first-round draft picks and seven defensive players who were picked within the first four rounds. Alabama will lose quite a few key players again.

If Fitzpatrick and safety Ronnie Harrison turn pro, that means the entire starting secondary is gone, along with All-America linebacker Rashaan Evans and center Bradley Bozeman besides the underclassmen.

Saban must also replace defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt , Tennessee’s new head coach.

Alabama will certainly still be among the favorites again going into next season, regardless of how the quarterback situation shakes out.

As for his own legacy, Saban refused to rank himself even with Bryant. He helped his case , anyway, by gambling with a halftime quarterback switch with a national title on the line.

“I think Coach Bryant is probably the best coach of all time because of the longevity of his tenure as a coach and the way he changed,” Saban said. “I mean, he won championships running the wishbone. He won them with Joe Namath dropping back throwing when people never, ever did it. I just think that, for his time, he impacted the game and had more success than anybody ever could.”

___

More AP college football: http://collegefootball.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_Top25

Comments

Crime

Blotter: Police respond to shots fired call outside of Salisbury home

Coronavirus

County tied for fifth among counties for most COVID-19 deaths

Health

‘Nudge from God’: 10 years after diagnosis, Rockwell man to receive kidney from live donor

Crime

Salisbury police warn residents after increased trailer thefts

Education

Elon heightens alert as 32 test positive; Wake Forest in good shape to continue instruction as is

Cleveland

Corn picker catches fire at Knox Farm, destroying nearly eight acres

Nation/World

House easily passes stopgap funding bill, averting shutdown

News

Supreme Court vacancy looms large in 2nd NC Senate debate

Coronavirus

Additional COVID-19 death reported in Rowan; Cooper announces small business relief

Crime

Asheville man charged with heroin possession following traffic checkpoint

Education

Susan Cox conceding school board race, putting support behind opponent

Education

Rowan-Salisbury Schools will survey families, stakeholders about next superintendent

Local

Library to reopen for in-person visits Oct. 1

Local

Rowan Sheriff’s Office K-9s to receive bulletproof vests

Crime

Man charged with sex offense, raping teen

Business

Commissioners receive analysis of county’s development application process

Crime

Man arrested in Spencer in connection with Charlotte murder investigation

Local

County government losing assistant manager, social services director

Education

RSS will collect information on full K-5 return

Education

KCS sees smooth transition back to classes, unlikely to transition to all in-person for K-5

Nation/World

Barrett emerges as court favorite; Trump to pick by weekend

Local

Tillis says Trump will extend offshore drilling pause to NC

Coronavirus

12% of all Rowan COVID-19 cases currently active

Crime

Blotter: Concord man faces drug charges after hotel disturbance call