The last we saw Alabama, Tua Tagovailoa used his electrifying, unorthodox style to team with a group of young, athletic wide receivers to lead an astonishing comeback past Georgia to win the national championship. Nine months later, not much has changed. Through one half in Orlando, Alabama holds a 28-0 lead over Louisville.
Nick Saban finally, officially deemed the sophomore Hawaiian has his starting quarterback just before the top-ranked Crimson Tide kicked off against Louisville, and it was immediately evident why. Alabama accepted the ball to open the game and immediately moved 65 yards in seven snaps, reaching pay dirt on an 11-yard strike from Tagovailoa to Jerry Jeudy.
The Tide’s next drive ended prematurely when a Tagovailoa connection to Devonta Smith (the fellow sophomore on the receiving end of Tagovailoa’s golden rainbow last January) ended in a fumble at the Louisville 17-yard line. No matter, Alabama forced a three-and-out and then marched 55 yards in six plays, scoring on a 9-yard Tagovailoa rush, pushing their lead to 14-0 at the 4:04 mark of the first quarter.
Louisville threatened to get on the scoreboard on the ensuing possession, but Jawon Pass was intercepted by Deionte Thompson, one of five new starters in Alabama’s defensive backfield, in the end zone. After a 25-yard return, Alabama was inside Louisville’s 10-yard line three plays later, thanks largely to a 49-yard rainbow from Tagovailoa to true freshman Jaylen Waddle. Najee Harris gave Alabama a 21-0 lead three plays later.
If there was one weak point for Alabama in the first half — and you know a sect of Tide fans is looking for one — it’s that Jalen Hurts played two second quarter series and the Tide didne’t score on either of them. The junior’s two series covered a combined 52 yards but both ended in punts.
Alabama seemed content to take a 3-touchdown lead into the break, but Waddle broke free for a 31-yard punt return to the Louisville 25 with 27 ticks left in the half, and Tagovailoa returned to capitalize in the form of his second touchdown pass to Jeudy of the night with nine seconds remaining in the half.
Tagovailoa closed the half hitting 11-of-15 passes for 195 yards with two touchdowns while rushing five times for 26 yards and a score. Damien Harris leads all runners with 51 yards on six carries. Alabama scored on four of Tagovailoa’s five possessions, with the fifth being Smith’s fumble inside the Louisville red zone.
Pass completed 10 of his 19 passes for an even 100 yards with the one pick to Thompson. The Cardinals will receive to open the second half. Louisville as a team has rushed for 13 yards on nine credited carries.