Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa finished second in the Heisman Trophy voting last season and set an NCAA record for passing efficiency.
But it’s the last game he can’t forget.
Tagovailoa threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown 100 seconds into the national championship game against Clemson, and he was picked off again early in the second quarter that led to a Tigers’ touchdown drive and a 28-16 lead.
Clemson went on to win 44-16, the worst loss in coach Nick Saban’s 13 seasons with the Crimson Tide.
“National championship was probably one of the biggest things that I had to face, you know?” Tagovailoa said on the SEC Network on Wednesday at SEC Media Days in Hoover, Ala.
“No one wants to go back and look a lot of their mistakes. Being able to just watch the game and look at all the things that gone wrong and look at the mistakes that I could’ve not made. I (should’ve) taken what they gave me. Last year, we were goal-oriented and looked at the scoreboard too much instead of just playing. But it’s hard. Throughout the entire season, we didn’t have to play catch up. It was a whole new ball game (against Clemson).”
Tagovailoa last season completed 245 of 355 passes for 3,966 yards, with 43 touchdowns and six interceptions for a passing efficiency rating of 199.4. He played through a bothersome ankle injury that eventually forced him out of the SEC Championship Game, and he skipped being a counselor at last month’s Manning Passing Academy in Louisiana because of a hamstring issue.
He said he is 100 percent healthy heading into camp — and he’s also leaner and more aware of “taking care of myself in every aspect, whether I’m hurting or not.” He said he’s at 215 pounds, down 15 pounds from March.
Tagovailoa, a junior, will enter the 2019 season as a Heisman co-favorite with Clemson sophomore quarterback Trevor Lawrence.
“I think Tua is the kind of guy that’s never really satisfied,” Saban said Wednesday at his podium interview. “And I think he had an outstanding year last year. Are there things that he can improve on? I don’t think there’s any question about that. ...
“Tua is a great competitor so he’s going to try to make a great play every play. And sometimes those things have worked out extremely well. And other times they’ve led to some disasters. ... But we’re happy to have him as a leader of our team. He’s got great character. He’s a hard worker. He affects his teammates in a really positive way.
“And, you know, he’s obviously been as productive as anybody in his position in the country. So hopefully we can build on that.”
—Field Level Media