The Plug, ‘To All The Ladies In The Place’ (Episode 5): Shakyla Hill And Stephania Bell Get Right At Home

4:13 PMFaced with a 13-0 halftime deficit, Alabama coach Nick Saban made the decision to switch from sophomore quarterback Jalen Hurts to true freshman signal-caller Tua Tagovailoa in the College Football Playoff National Championship on Monday night.

Tagovailoa had never been brought into a game with the Crimson Tide losing, but in the battle of freshman quarterbacks, Tagovailoa outshone the Bulldogs’ Jake Fromm in front of what might as well have been a home game for Georgia playing at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta.

Tagovailoa orchestrated a comeback that saw Alabama score 26 points in the second half and overtime to win, 26-23. At least Georgia wasn’t the first team from the state to blow a cushy lead in its championship game (I’m talking about you, Atlanta Falcons).

In one half of work, the Hawaii native went 14-of-24 for 166 yards with three touchdowns, including the game-winning 41-yarder, and one interception to help give Alabama its fifth national championship under Saban. When someone comes on the scene like that, well, it’s time to get to know them.

Here are six facts about Tagovailoa and what his performance means in historical context.

1. Tagovailoa is the first Samoan quarterback to win college football’s national championship game

In 2015, a Samoan was 56 times more likely to play in the NFL than an American non-Samoan. For the most part, Samoans have been given positions along the defensive and offensive lines, linebacker, safety and occasionally running back. Quarterback has been an elusive position for the group.

With Tagovailoa leading the Crimson Tide’s second-half comeback against SEC foe Georgia, he became the first Samoan quarterback to win the national championship. With three more years of eligibility and offensive MVP performance, the floodgates may open.

>National Championship coverage

Tagovailoa is by no means the first quarterback to represent the Pacific Island community, though. Washington State’s Jack “The Throwin’ Samoan” Thompson was in the discussion for the Heisman Trophy in 1978, was the highest-drafted Samoan (Cincinnati Bengals, third overall, 1979) and at the time only the fifth Samoan-born player to make it to the NFL.

Tennessee Titans signal-caller Marcus Mariota took over the distinction of highest-drafted Samoan in 2015 (second overall). Mariota had the best opportunity to become the first Samoan quarterback to win a national title, but his Oregon Ducks lost to Ohio State in the first CFP championship game. Mariota was the first Hawaiian-born player to win the Heisman.

Former Washington Huskies quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo, who in 1999 became the first player to pass for 300 yards and run for 200 in a game, had the next best opportunity. Tuiasosopo led the fourth-ranked Huskies to a 34-24 victory over Drew Brees and Purdue in the 2001 Rose Bowl and was named the MVP of the game.

2. Winning is in his DNA

Tagovailoa is the nephew of Fano Tagovailoa, who in a 2002 article on Samoan football culture was regarded as “the best quarterback we’ve seen in Samoa,” according to a local coach. Fano was the backup quarterback for the undefeated Utah team that beat Pittsburgh in the 2004 Fiesta Bowl.

And Tua’s brother, Taulia, the nation’s No. 8 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class, has already received an offer from Alabama. Their parents pumped the breaks on Taulia Tagovailoa committing in July 2016, but his brother’s success has probably dumped a whole bucket of gasoline on an already hot fire.

3. the recruiting gods love alabama

Per ESPN’s Stats & Information, DeVonta Smith, who hauled in the game-winning touchdown, was a Georgia commit for a stretch during high school, while Tagovailoa received an offer from Alabama after they lost the commitment of Fromm. Funny how those things work out.

4. your boy can sing and play ukulele

From the short clip that Alabama offensive line coach Brent Key tweeted out, Tagovailoa has a pretty amazing singing voice.

@tuaaamann_ putting on a Christmas concert for the coaches after practice!!

— Coach Brent Key (@CoachBrentKey) December 22, 2017

5. HE picked alabama because of the school’s faith-centric environment

In a 2016 interview with SB Nation, Tagovailoa explained that Alabama’s biggest selling point for him was how intertwined religion was with the top-notch program.

“First and foremost, it was their belief in God. Their belief in God was one of the biggest things that kind of struck me. That kind of lines up with everything in my life,” Tagovailoa said. “It’s not really structured, ‘There’s God, and there’s anything else.’ It’s more, ‘God’s so in the middle, and everything revolves around him.’ That’s the kind of atmosphere I want to surround myself with.”

On a side note: An Alabama fan questioned Tagovailoa’s ability to adapt … because the fan thought someone from Hawaii couldn’t speak English. 🤔 I’m going to let you read this one for yourself. Hawaii has been the 50th state in the United States for almost 60 years.

Alabama has a freshman quarterback from Hawaii, and at least one fan is concerned

— Ben Reiter (@BenReiter) September 13, 2017

6. no situation was tua (pun intended) much for the true freshman

This was the first time Tagovailoa was inserted into a game in which Alabama wasn’t leading by double digits all season. Tagovailoa played in Crimson Tide blowouts. He finished the regular season completing 35 of 53 passes for 470 yards with eight touchdowns and one interception. The last time he saw the field was a month and a half ago, when he went 7-of-11 for 85 yards and three scores in the Crimson Tide’s win over Mercer on Nov. 18.

Tagovailoa joined Ohio State’s Cardale Jones as the second quarterback in four years to lead their teams to a CFP national title victory without starting a game during the regular season.

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The Plug, ‘To All The Ladies In The Place’ (Episode 5): Shakyla Hill and Stephania Bell get right at home
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