Monday, October 18, 2021

Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa Took Control of Victory in the Way He’s Been Known to Do

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A half’s worth of quarterback duel in West Virginia went the other way, with Will Leinart throwing a pair of touchdown passes and leading the highest-scoring game in the history of the Notre Dame-West Virginia series. Unfortunately for West Virginia, one was thrown into overtime, and the other back into regulation, with the winner heading to South Bend, Ind., to beat No. 1 Alabama.

The big right arm of West Virginia’s Will Grier proved an antidote for a disjointed Fighting Irish offense on a day the Mountaineers expected to see more success on the ground. On third down in overtime, Grier escaped pressure from the Irish defense, then threw deep for Ja’Marr Chase to bring his career day to an end. The points mattered in a game that was 12-12 in the first half and made the Mountaineers just one of 10 teams to have won a game against Alabama when trailing at halftime.

But the Irish quarterback of the moment was, not surprisingly, Tua Tagovailoa. He compiled a career day, going 20-of-30 for 417 yards and three touchdowns (two of them in the first half), proving capable of nearly anything the Notre Dame offense needed to do.

The Notre Dame defense — under new coordinator Mike Elko — had its issues — one was allowing West Virginia to rush for 245 yards. They also collapsed late in regulation and gave up a 46-yard pass to Elijah Hood as the Irish tried to tie the game.

But the top-ranked team in the country makes more of a habit of emerging with victories than losing ones. Grier led his team to victory — going 23-of-45 for 464 yards and two touchdowns — but it was Tagovailoa who got the last word.

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