There were so many deserving players, but I had to go with Tua Tagovailoa for this one. First, he set some school records and likely locked down the Heisman. Second, it’s just fun to rewatch Auburn getting scored on.
Sorry for the potato quality of some of these gifs, by the way.
3rd and 3: Tagovailoa is in shotgun with Josh Jacobs (#8) on his left hip. Jerry Jeudy (#4) and DeVonta Smith (#6) are tight to the right, and Henry Ruggs (#11) is tight to the left. Hale Hentges (#84) is the H-back and motions right to left, and Auburn defensive lineman Marlon Davidson follows suit. Tagovailoa gets the snap, and Jacobs and he take off to the left. Hentges and Ruggs seal off Davidson as left tackle Jonah Williams (#73) pulls to the left (Ruggs peels off and also helps block a linebacker at the second level). Williams shoves an overmatched defensive back; and Jacobs follows suit, knocking the already off balance defender even farther back. His bad day continues as Tagovailoa comes barreling in and trucks him back some more and all the way to the ground.
1st and goal: After a solid gain and first down from Jerry Jeudy, Alabama hurries up and gets to the line. The Tide have trips left, with Jeudy, Ruggs, and Hentges out there. All the Auburn DBs are playing off, and Tagovailoa knows exactly where he’s going. He gets the snap and quickly fires a bullet to Ruggs on the smoke screen. Hentges and Jeudy each block their guy. The remaining Tiger reacts quickly and reaches Ruggs right around the line of scrimmage. Ruggs doesn’t let that stop him, however; and, with a little help from the defender’s body, he extends and gets the ball across the goalline.
2nd and 2: Tagovailoa’s in the gun with Damien Harris (#34). Jeudy and Waddle are to the left with Jeudy on the outside. There’s nothing particularly fancy about this play. Jeudy runs a go route. The cornerback is in press coverage but gives Jeudy a clean release. The offensive line does their job, and Harris does an excellent job of picking up the blitzing linebacker. Tagovailoa completes his drops, turns to the left, and launches a pretty spiral that drops into Jeudy’s arms just past the corner. Jeudy hauls it in and jogs into the endzone.
1st and 10: Alabama got the ball back after a three and out, and they’re driving downfield. This is the third straight play with both Josh Jacobs and Najee Harris (#22) on the field, formations that have generally been effective all season. Harris is to Tagovailoa’s right, Jacobs to the left. Jeudy is in the slot and runs a crossing route from left to right, and the outside receivers on either side run go routes. Tagovailoa fakes the handoff to Harris, and one of the safeties comes down to play that. The slot corner follows Jeudy across the field. This allows Jacobs to just run down the seam, blowing by that safety and a linebacker. Tagovailoa has Auburn defenders bearing down on him and lofts a pass to Jacobs, who readjusts to his outside shoulder and makes the catch. The trailing linebacker has caught up now, but Jacobs gets an assist. The other Tigers safety has come over and collides more into his fellow defender than Jacobs, knocking both out the play. Jacobs stays upright through the collision, jukes a defender, and runs in for the touchdown.
1st and 10: We see the Jacobs/Harris personnel group again. DeVonta Smith is the lone receiver on the left. Jacobs motions left to right; and Tagovailoa pumps to him, drawing a linebacker in. Auburn rushes four, and the offensive line gives Tagovailoa all day. He waits and waits until Smith breaks free on a deep crossing route, steps up, and rifles it to Smith. Smith turns upfield; and, as the cornerback nears, he hits the brakes, sending the defender skidding to the ground past him. Smith takes off again, and an excellent downfield block by Henry Ruggs gives him the space to dash into the endzone.
1st and 10: Tagovailoa is in shotgun with trips right and Henry Ruggs wide left. This is a similar looking formation to the one from the Ruggs touchdown with Hale Hentges, more of a blocking tight end, out wide with two wide receivers. An Auburn linebacker even calls the defense’s attention to this side pre-snap. Sure enough, Tagovailoa gets the snap and fires off a dart to Jerry Jeudy. Just kidding. He pumps and then comes back to the left and Ruggs, who got a clean, outside release on the cornerback in press coverage. It’s not a perfect throw or anything, but Tagovailoa puts it where only Ruggs can make a play, trusting his talented teammate. And Ruggs makes an outstanding catch, leaping into the air, snagging the ball with one hand, and pulling it into his body all while managing to get both feet in somehow.