TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The story out of Nick Saban’s Wednesday press conference wasn’t that Alabama’s starting quarterback sustained an injury and has been practicing in a knee brace.
It wasn’t even Saban’s confirmation that starting cornerback Trevon Diggs will likely miss the rest of the season with a broken foot. No, all the focus was on the return of “Dixieland Delight” to Bryant-Denny Stadium, whether it was from reporters, players or fans of the Crimson Tide.
But let’s rewind Saban’s comments on Tua Tagovailoa, who sported a brace on his right knee all week in practice and remained standing while the rest of Alabama’s quarterbacks threw from their knees in drills. It didn’t dominate the headlines because it’s a non-issue, Saban said.
“Tua has taken every rep in practice,” Saban said. “He does have a sprained knee. We did put a brace on it just to kind of protect him, but he’s been able to do all the work in practice, so that’s not an issue.”
Still, anything Tua-related is news these days, and this is something that will cause Tide fans to hold their breath — even more so — when Tagovailoa drops back to pass this weekend when the Missouri Tigers visit Tuscaloosa. Especially when he runs the ball or lines up at receiver.
And because of his hot start to the season, UA wants to keep Tagovailoa as healthy as possible.
Tagovailoa has directed 44 drives as the Crimson Tide’s starting quarterback this season with 31 resulting in touchdowns and two culminating in field goals. In those 44 drives, Alabama’s offense is 21-of-31 on third down conversions and has accounted for 2,144 yards on 219 snaps for an average of 9.8 yards per play and 220 of the 302 points scored by the UA offense.
In three SEC games, Tagovailoa has thrown for 912 yards and 10 touchdowns on 43-of-58 passing and an efficiency rating of 263.12. He is 18 for 20 with 462 yards and six touchdowns in the first half against Louisiana and Arkansas for a passing efficiency rating of 383.04.
This weekend, Tagovailoa and Alabama’s passing attack will be facing a Missouri defense that has only recorded 7.0 sacks and ranks 13th in the league in passing defense, giving up 284.8 yards through the air per game. So in reality, the sophomore southpaw could continue his streak of not playing in the fourth quarter this year. Tagovailoa’s knee injury could speed up Saban’s philosophy on subbing in his starter for an experienced backup like junior Jalen Hurts.
“Sometimes we have a plan for how we want to do it and sometimes you sort of do it by feel,” Saban said. “We have a lot of confidence in both of our quarterbacks. So, every time we get an opportunity to play Jalen, we certainly want to do that. There’s not really much more to say about it.”
Alabama will host Missouri in its Homecoming game on Saturday, Oct. 13, at 6 p.m. (ESPN).
Contact Charlie Potter by 247Sports’ personal messaging or on Twitter (@Charlie_Potter).
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