Nick Saban had a simple explanation for why he made the game-changing decision to switch quarterbacks in the middle of the national championship game

  • Alabama took home the college football national championship with an overtime win against the Georgia Bulldogs, 26-23.
  • The key to Alabama's victory was backup quarterback and true freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who provided a spark to the Tide's offense after starter Jalen Hurts struggled out of the gate.
  • Tagovailoa threw three touchdowns, including the game-winner in overtime.
  • After the game, Saban gave a simple explanation as to why he decided to make the risky switch at quarterback.


The Alabama Crimson Tide won the 2017 college football national championship on Monday night, beating the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime, 26-23, in Atlanta at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

It was a game filled with big moments. But undoubtedly the biggest decision in the game came at halftime, when Alabama head coach Nick Saban choose to replace starting quarterback Jalen Hurts with true freshman Tua Tagovailoa after the Tide got out to a flat start on offense.

When Tagovailoa came out for Alabama's first drive of the second half, many were left confused by the move. Hurts was 25-2 in his career as a starter, and the idea of giving a true freshman his first competitive playing time in the national championship against one of the best defenses in college football seems like a recipe for disaster.

But Saban knew what he was doing.

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Nick Saban through his career
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Nick Saban through his career
Louisiana State University head coach Nick Saban celebrates as his players hold the national championship trophy after the Tigers' 21-14 win over the University of Oklahoma in the Nokia Sugar Bowl in New Orleans, January 4, 2004. REUTERS/Marc Serota JLS
The Miami Dolphins' new coach Nick Saban talks during a press conference at the Dolphins training center in Davie, Florida, January 4, 2005. Saban is one of the most successful collegiate coaches over last five years. REUTERS/Carlos Barria CB/SV
Miami Dolphins new head coach Nick Saban watches his team run drills on the first day of camp in Davie, Florida, July 25, 2005. REUTERS/Marc Serota MS/LA
Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban argues a call during a game against the Atlanta Falcons in Miami, Florida, November 6, 2005. Atlanta defeated Miami 17-10. REUTERS/Marc Serota
Miami Dolphins coach Nick Saban argues a call against the New England Patriots in Miami, Florida November 13, 2005.The Patriots defeated the Dolphins 23-16.REUTERS/Marc Serota
Miami Dolphins head coach Nick Saban (C) watches as Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu (R) intercepts a pass meant for Miami receiver Chris Chamber (84) in the fourth quarter of their NFL football game in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, September 7, 2006. REUTERS/Jason Cohn (UNITED STATES)
University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban takes the field as he returns to Tiger Stadium to take on Louisiana State University during their NCAA football game in Baton Rouge, Louisiana November 8, 2008. Saban is the former head coach of LSU. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES)
University of Alabama head coach Nick Saban poses with Heisman Memorial Trophy award winner running back Mark Ingram (R) at a news conference in New York December 12, 2009. REUTERS/Finbarr O'Reilly (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Alabama coach Nick Saban throws during team practice for the BCS Championship NCAA college football game in Costa Mesa, California January 4, 2010. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban directs his team against the LSU Tigers during the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans, January 9, 2012. REUTERS/Matt Sullivan (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban (C) watches Josh Chapman hold up the trophy after their team defeated the LSU Tigers during the NCAA BCS National Championship college football game in New Orleans, Louisiana, January 9, 2012. REUTERS/Sean Gardner (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban points upwards after his team defeated the Georgia Bulldogs during the NCAA SEC college football championship in Atlanta, Georgia, December 1, 2012. REUTERS/Chris Keane (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban speaks during media day for the 2013 BCS National Championship NCAA football game in Miami, Florida January 5, 2013. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
University of Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban stands next to the Coaches' Trophy after his team beat Notre Dame in the NCAA college football 2013 Discover BCS National Championship game during a news conference in Fort Lauderdale, Florida January 8, 2013. This is Saban's fourth title and third at Alabama. REUTERS/Jeff Haynes (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT FOOTBALL)
Jan 1, 2015; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban on the field prior to the 2015 Sugar Bowl against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Dec 5, 2015; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban celebrates with his team after winning the 2015 SEC Championship Game against the Florida Gators at the Georgia Dome. Alabama won 29-15. Mandatory Credit: Jason Getz-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 11, 2016; Glendale, AZ, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide running back Derrick Henry (2) dunks head coach Nick Saban with Gatorade after the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2016 CFP National Championship at University of Phoenix Stadium. Alabama won 45-40. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 2, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; President Barack Obama holds an honorary game ball presented by Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban (left) during a ceremony honoring the 2015 national champion Crimson Tide in the East Room at the White House. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports / Reuters Picture Supplied by Action Images (TAGS: Sport American Football NCAA) *** Local Caption *** 2016-03-02T220115Z_870359777_NOCID_RTRMADP_3_NCAA-FOOTBALL-ALABAMA-WHITE-HOUSE-VISIT.JPG
Nov 4, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban holds up two fingers on the field against the LSU Tigers during the forth quarter quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2017; Tampa, FL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban after the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2017 College Football Playoff National Championship Game at Raymond James Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 4, 2017; Tuscaloosa, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban holds up two fingers on the field against the LSU Tigers during the forth quarter at Bryant-Denny Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hagy-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 25, 2017; Auburn, AL, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban greets Bo Jackson (left) before the game against the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban reacts during the fourth quarter against the Clemson Tigers in the 2018 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 1, 2018; New Orleans, LA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban wears a hat backwards as he talks to quarterback Jalen Hurts (2) after the game against the Clemson Tigers in the 2018 Sugar Bowl college football playoff semifinal game at Mercedes-Benz Superdome. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 8, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama Crimson Tide head coach Nick Saban reacts after beating the Georgia Bulldogs in the 2018 CFP national championship college football game at Mercedes-Benz Stadium. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports
Jan 9, 2018; Atlanta, GA, USA; Alabama head coach Nick Saban speaks to media after wining the National Championship during a press conference at the Sheraton Downtown hotel. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports
COLLEGE STATION, TX - OCTOBER 07: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide at Kyle Field on October 7, 2017 in College Station, Texas. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide runs onto the field with his team prior to a game against the Vanderbilt Commodores during the first half at Vanderbilt Stadium on September 23, 2017 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TN - SEPTEMBER 23: Alabama head coach Nick Saban arrives at the stadium before a college football game between the Vanderbilt Commodores and the Alabama Crimson Tide on September 23, 2017 at Commodore Stadium in Nashville, TN. (Photo by Jamie Gilliam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
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Tagovailoa led Alabama to their first points of the game and eventually he threw the game-winning touchdown in overtime to seal the title for the Tide.

While speaking with ESPN's Tom Rinaldi after the game, Saban gave a simple explanation for why he decided to make the switch at quarterback after Hurts' play had carried the team so far in the season.

"Well, I just thought we had to throw the ball in the game, and I thought he could do it better," Saban said of Tagovailoa. "And he did."

You can watch Saban's comments below.

It's true — in his first half performance, Hurts completed just three passes for 21 yards and failed to get the Alabama offense moving in any significant way against the stout defense of the Georgia Bulldogs. But once the Crimson Tide made the switch, their offense came alive, and Tagovailoa would finish the game with 166 yards and three touchdowns in just a half game's worth of work.

For his part, Hurts was extremely gracious about his benching for the good of the team. As Hurts would later say, his message to Tagovailoa before taking the field for the second half was one of confidence. 

"Play your game. Ball."

He did, and now the Crimson Tide are once again national champions because of it.

See photos from the game: 

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Alabama tops Georgia in college football national title game
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Alabama tops Georgia in college football national title game
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: A general view of Mercedes-Benz Stadium during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on January 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Andy Pappanastos #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide misses a field goal during the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass during the first quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Jalen Hurts #2 of the Alabama Crimson Tide stiff arms Aaron Davis #35 of the Georgia Bulldogs on a run during the first quarter in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs pitches the ball during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Sony Michel #1 of the Georgia Bulldogs runs the ball during the first quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: David Marshall #51 of the Georgia Bulldogs is helped by team doctors after an injury during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Rodrigo Blankenship #98 of the Georgia Bulldogs kicks a field goal during the second quarter against the Alabama Crimson Tide in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Head coach Nick Saban of the Alabama Crimson Tide and defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt talk to their team during the second quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: The Crimson Tide defense wrap up Georgia Bulldogs running back Nick Chubb (27) during the College Football Playoff National Championship Game between the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Georgia Bulldogs on January 8, 2018 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, GA. (Photo by David John Griffin/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Calvin Ridley #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide fails to pull in a catch against Malkom Parrish #14 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the third quarter in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide throws a pass as he is hit by Jonathan Ledbetter #13 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the third quarter in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates a six yard touchdown pass during the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Andy Pappanastos #12 of the Alabama Crimson Tide kicks a field goal during the third quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Jake Fromm #11 of the Georgia Bulldogs is sacked by Raekwon Davis #99 of the Alabama Crimson Tide during the second half in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Jerry Jeudy #4 of the Alabama Crimson Tide fails to make a catch for a touchdown against Aaron Davis #35 and Dominick Sanders #24 of the Georgia Bulldogs during the second half in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Calvin Ridley #3 of the Alabama Crimson Tide makes a catch for a seven yard touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Georgia Bulldogs in the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide celebrates beating the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime to win the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 08: The Alabama Crimson Tide celebrate beating the Georgia Bulldogs in overtime and winning the CFP National Championship presented by AT&T at Mercedes-Benz Stadium on January 8, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia. Alabama won 26-23. (Photo by Scott Cunningham/Getty Images)
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