Alabama’s Jalen Hurts did two things in the SEC Championship Game that made the difference in rallying the No. 1-ranked Crimson Tide past No. 4 Georgia, according to the Phil Savage.
Savage, the former analyst for the Crimson Tide Sports Network, pointed out one was an old habit, but the other was a new trend.
By now you’ve heard the story. Hurts, last year’s starter, was benched in the CFP national championship game. Enter freshman Tua Tagovailoa, who rallied Alabama to an overtime win.
Fast forward a year and Alabama is struggling against Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs again. An injured Tagovailoa is replaced by Hurts, who rallies his team to the SEC title.
Savage, who joined me and Lee Shirvanian on “The Opening Kickoff” on WNSP-FM 105.5 on Thursday was asked what made the two games so different for Hurts?
“It was the inverse of a year ago,” Savage said. “A year ago, they put all their preparation into Jalen Hurts, then Tua Tagovailoa showed up in the second half and they looked like they never covered a pass in their life.
“This year, all their preparation went toward Tua where they banged around the Alabama receivers at the line of scrimmage.”
Savage said Smart played Alabama the way Nick Saban would have: Be physical with the receivers to disrupt the time of the passing attack.
“Then, all of a sudden, Jalen Hurts shows up,” he said. “It didn’t appear that Georgia made any adjustments.”
Hurts, who is 26-2 as a starter, did what he always does, Savage said.
“They allowed him to escape to his right multiple times,” he explained. “That’s the default option for Jalen Hurts. When he doesn’t see clearly, he floats out to the right. He did that on a touchdown pass. He did it on a couple of different scramble situation, and Georgia lost containment.”
Savage, who is now the GM of the Arizona Hot Shots of the Alliance, said the other thing Hurts did, which we didn’t see last year, was deliver the football down the middle of the field.
“Remember, for two years, Jalen Hurts didn’t throw a lot of passes between the hash marks,” he said. “Most of his work was done outside the hash marks to the wide side of the field. Then, he would run the ball down the middle.
“In the first series of downs he was in, he threw a ball down the middle of the field. I thought that really elevated his confidence and opened up the playbook for the Alabama coaching staff.”