After a week of wondering whether Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa would play against The Citadel, the answer was supplied by the underdog Bulldogs on Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Not only did the Crimson Tide need their Heisman Trophy contender to play, they needed him to shine to finally grab control.
Tagovailoa parlayed a nearly perfect third-quarter performance into a needed breakthrough for his team as No. 1-ranked Alabama stormed past The Citadel 50-17 with a huge second half.
Before finally exiting as the final period began, Tagovailoa completed all 10 of his passes for 196 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the third quarter. He wound up 18-for-22 for 340 yards and three scores.
His razor-sharp performance helped Alabama outgain The Citadel 220 yards to 27 in the quarter and erase any drama.
For a half, though, the Bulldogs (4-6) gave the Tide (11-0) fits.
The Citadel forged a 7-7 tie on Dante Smith’s 45-yard run on an option toss down the right sideline in the first quarter, and the score was deadlocked 10-10 at halftime.
The Bulldogs had a chance to grab the lead right halftime, but kicker Jacob Godek’s 45-yard attempt was wide right.
In the first two quarters, The Citadel’s methodical option offense ran the ball 30 times for 149 yards for nine first downs to offset the Tide’s nearly 10 yards per play — 209 yards on 21 snaps.
Bulldogs quarterback Brandon Rainey led the way, carrying 14 times for 42 yards.
The Tide struck first when Tagovailoa floated a 21-yard touchdown pass to Jaylen Waddle to cap an eight-play, 80-yard scoring march.
Smith added a 44-yard touchdown ramble in the final quarter and led The Citadel offense with 130 rushing yards. Rainey carved out 79 gritty yards on 25 carries.
Alabama racked up 561 total yards. Damien Harris led a 190-yard rushing attack with 83 yards, while Henry Ruggs III was one of three Alabama receivers to catch six passes and led the way with 114 yards.
—Field Level Media