NCAA

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT

devonta-smith-td-ap.jpg
AP

Alabama wins national title on epic walk-off touchdown in OT

BOX SCORE

ATLANTA -- To add another championship to the greatest dynasty college football has ever seen, Alabama turned to its quarterback of the future, and Tua Tagovailoa proved that his time is now.

The freshman quarterback, who had played mostly mop-up duty this season, came off the bench to spark a comeback and threw a 41-yard touchdown to DeVonta Smith that gave No. 4 Alabama a 26-23 overtime victory against No. 3 Georgia on Monday night for the College Football Playoff national championship.

Tagovailoa entered the game at halftime, replacing a struggling Jalen Hurts, and threw three touchdown passes to give the Crimson Tide its fifth national championship since 2009 under coach Nick Saban.

"He just stepped in and did his thing," Hurts said. "He's built for stuff like this. I'm so happy for him." The Tide might have a quarterback controversy ahead of it but first Alabama will celebrate another national title.

For the third straight season, Alabama played in a classic CFP final. The Tide split two with Clemson, losing last season on touchdown with a second left.

What was Saban thinking as the winning pass soared this time?

"I could not believe it," he said. "There's lots of highs and lows. Last year we lost on the last play of the game and this year we won on the last play of the game. These kids really responded the right way. We said last year, `Don't waste the feeling.' They sure didn't, the way they played tonight."

Smith streaked into the end zone and moments later confetti rained and even Saban seemed almost giddy after watching maybe the most improbably victory of his unmatched career.

After Alabama kicker Andy Pappanastos missed a 36-yard field goal that would have won it for the Tide (13-1) in the final seconds of regulation , Georgia (13-2) took the lead with a 51-yard field goal from Rodrigo Blankenship in overtime.

Tagovailoa took a terrible sack on Alabama's first play of overtime, losing 16 yards. On the next play he found Smith, another freshman, and hit him in stride for the national championship.

Tagovailoa was brilliant at times, though he had a few freshman moments. He threw an interception when he tried to pass on a running play and all his receivers were blocking. He also darted away from the pass rushers and made some impeccable throws, showing the poise of a veteran. Facing fourth-and-goal from 7, down seven, the left-hander moved to his left and zipped a pass through traffic that hit Calvin Ridley in the numbers for the tying score with 3:49 left in the fourth quarter.

He finished 14 for 24 for 166 yards. The winning play was, basically, four receivers going deep.

"After the sack, we just got up and took it to the next play," Tagovailoa said. "I looked back out, and he was wide open. Smitty was wide open." Freshmen were everywhere for the Alabama offense: Najee Harris at running back, Henry Ruggs III at receiver, Alex Leatherwood at left tackle after All-American Jonah Williams was hurt. It's a testament to the relentless machine Saban has built.

But this game will be remembered most for his decision to change quarterbacks trailing 13-0.

"I just thought we had to throw the ball, and I felt he could do it better, and he did," Saban said. "He did a good job, made some plays in the passing game. Just a great win. I'm so happy for Alabama fans. Great for our players. Unbelievable."

Saban now has six major poll national championships, including one at LSU, matching the record set by the man who led Alabama's last dynasty, coach Paul Bear Bryant.

This was nothing like the others.

With President Trump in attendance, the all-Southeastern Conference matchup was all Georgia in the first half before Saban pulled Hurts and the five-star recruit from Hawaii entered. The president watched the second half from Air Force One.

"I don't know how Coach Saban found me all the way in Hawaii from Alabama," Tagovailoa said. "Thank God he found me and we're here right now."

The Tide trailed 20-7 in the third quarter after Georgia's freshman quarterback, Jake Fromm, hit Mecole Hardman for an 80-yard touchdown pass that had the Georgia fans feeling good about ending a national title drought that dates back to 1980.

Fromm threw for 232 yards for a while it looked as if he was going to be the freshman star for the game, the first to true freshman to lead his team to a national title season since Jamelle Holieway for Oklahoma in 1985.

"I mean, if you want to find out about Jake Fromm, go ask those guys on the other side of the ball, and they'll tell you because that's a really good defense he just went against," Smart said.

A little less than a year after the Atlanta Falcons blew a 25-point lead and lost in overtime to the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was more pain for many of the local fans. Two years ago, Georgia brought in Saban's top lieutenant, Kirby Smart, to coach the Bulldogs and bring to his alma mater a dose of Alabama's Process.

Smart, who spent 11 seasons with Saban - eight as his defensive coordinator in Tuscaloosa - quickly built `Bama East. It was Georgia that won the SEC this season. Alabama had to slip into the playoff without even winning its own division.

With the title game being held 70 miles from Georgia's campus in Athens, Dawg fans packed Mercedes-Benz Stadium, but it turned out to be sweet home for Alabama and now Saban is 12-0 against his former assistants.

But not without angst.

Alabama drove into the red zone in the final minute and Saban started playing for a field goal that would end the game and win it for the Tide. A nervous quiet gripped the crowd of 77,430 as `Bama burned the clock. With the ball centered in the middle of the field, Pappanastos lined up for a kick to win the national championship. The snap and hold looked fine, but the kicked missed badly to the left.

For the second straight week, Georgia was going to overtime. The Bulldogs beat Oklahoma in a wild Rose Bowl in double overtime to get here, and after Jonathan Ledbetter and Davin Bellamy sacked Tagovailoa for a big loss on the first play, Alabama was in trouble - second-and-26.

Not for long. Tagovailoa looked off the safety and threw the biggest touchdown pass in the history of Alabama football.

Former Cal star Jabari Bird arrested for domestic incident, kidnapping

jabarius.jpg
USATSI

Former Cal star Jabari Bird arrested for domestic incident, kidnapping

BOSTON — Boston Celtics guard Jabari Bird is facing several charges following a domestic incident in which a victim was injured, police said.

Bird, a second-round draft choice of the Celtics in 2017, signed a two-year contract with the team this summer after splitting his rookie season between Boston and the Maine Red Claws of the G-League.

“Jabari Bird is currently being guarded by the Boston Police at a local hospital for an evaluation after a domestic incident that occurred in Brighton on Friday,” the department said in a brief statement Saturday. “The victim involved in the incident was also transported to a separate hospital for treatment of injuries sustained.”

Police said complaints would be sought against Bird for assault and battery, strangulation and kidnapping. He could be arraigned as early as Monday in Brighton District Court. Brighton is a neighborhood of Boston.

No other details were immediately released.

“We are aware of the incident involving Jabari Bird and are taking it very seriously,” the Celtics said in a statement on Saturday. “We are actively gathering information and will reserve further comment at this time.”

A message left with Bird’s agent, Aaron Goodwin, was not immediately returned.

Bird, 24, played his college basketball at California where he earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention honors and led the Golden Bears in scoring in his final season at the school.

He appeared in 13 regular-season games for the Celtics last season, averaging 3.0 points per game.

Cal 1B Andrew Vaughn caps monster season by winning Golden Spikes Award

andrewvaughngoldenspikes.jpg
CAL ATHLETICS

Cal 1B Andrew Vaughn caps monster season by winning Golden Spikes Award

LOS ANGELES – One of the most prolific seasons in Cal baseball history has earned Andrew Vaughn a spot among the elite names ever to play the game on the amateur level as he has been named the Golden Spikes Award winner by USA Baseball and the Rod Dedeaux Foundation.

The award, which has been given to the nation’s top amateur player annually since 1978, is considered one of the highest honors a college baseball player can earn. The announcement came as part of ESPN’s SportsCenter telecast on Thursday afternoon with three of the four finalists – Vaughn, Texas infielder Kody Clemens and Auburn pitcher Casey Mize – in studio at ESPN Los Angeles.

Vaughn is the first Cal baseball player to earn the honor and is only the second to be named a finalist, joining Lance Blankenship (1984). He is the eighth Pac-12 player to bring home the award and joins a group that includes UCLA’s Trevor Bauer (2011), Washington's Tim Lincecum (2006), USC's Mark Prior (2001), Arizona State's Mike Kelly (1991), Oddibe McDowell (1984) and Bob Horner (1978) and Arizona's Terry Francona (1980). 

The announcement came live on SportsCenter at ESPN’s Los Angeles studios. After being announced as the winner, Vaughn was joined on set by his parents, Toby and Diana, along with his sister, Madison, and Cal head coach Mike Neu. 

From a statistical standpoint, the award is certainly deserved for the native of Santa Rosa, Calif. after he turned in one of the greatest single seasons in Cal baseball history.

A sophomore first baseman, Vaughn started all 54 games and hit .402, a mark that ranks third in Cal single-season history. His 23 home runs tied the single-season record set by Xavier Nady in 1999 and his slugging percentage of .819 is the best in school history. 

He also drove in 63 runs, walked 44 times, got hit by a pitch 12 times and struck out only 18 times. His on-base percentage of .531 ranks fourth in the nation. Vaughn was also one of the conference's best defenders at his position, compiling a fielding percentage of .992 and earning a spot on the Pac-12 All-Defensive team.

The announcement came as part of a two-day trip to Los Angeles for Vaughn, who has stayed busy since the end of the collegiate season. Beginning the summer as a member of the Wareham Gatemen in the Cape Cod League, Vaughn left New England as the league leader in both home runs (5) and RBI (14) after 14 games played.

Before heading to Southern California, he moved down the East Coast to Cary, N.C. to begin his second stint with the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team. International play begins for Team USA on June 28 when Chinese Taipei visits for a five-game series. The team will also take on Japan and Cuba as play extends into mid-July.

Cal Athletics provided this report.