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Tua Historically Efficient in Orange Bowl

By BJ Bennett
SouthernPigskin.com
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Tua Tagovailoa threw more touchdown passes, 4, than he did incompletions with 3.

Kyler Murray was dynamic, explosive and productive in the Orange Bowl in a College Football Playoff semifinal showdown with Alabama. Tua Tagovailoa was even better. In one of the most-anticipated quarterback pairings of all-time, Murray, the Heisman Trophy winner, and Tagovailoa, the Heisman runner-up, both lived up to the hype. The end result was 79 total points, 999 total yards, another national championship game berth for the Crimson Tide and, for Tagovailoa, one of the most efficient big games of all-time.

Tagovailoa threw more touchdown passes, 4, than he did incompletions with 3. Going 24-of-27 for 318 yards, Tagovailoa became the first quarterback to complete at least 85% of his passes and throw for a minimum of 315 yards and four scores against a Power Five defense in any game since Jameis Winston in 2013. Using that 85-315-4 standard, Tagovailoa is the lone signal caller with such a performance in a bowl game this millennium; lower the completion rate to 80% and the only quarterbacks are Tagovailoa, Jimmy Clausen, Philip Rivers and Mark Sanchez.

Healthy, Tagovailoa wasted no time in returning to form. He found DeVonta Smith for a 50-yard strike on the very first play of the night. Alabama was in the redzone three plays later. The Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on four consecutive drives to open the game, building a commanding 28-0 lead. Tagovailoa, early in the second quarter, was 9-of-9 passing for 184 yards and two touchdowns. Though Oklahoma rallied to make the contest closer in the second half, Tagovailoa did not have to throw a pass on Alabama's final possession.

Beyond the fact that Tagovailoa starred with one of the most efficient bowl game performances ever, he, changing the status quo under Nick Saban, passed Blake Sims for the most single-season passing yards in Crimson Tide history. Tagovailoa added a sixth 300-yard game to the books for this fall, doubling the previous record held by Gary Hollingsworth, Jay Barker and A.J. McCarron. With 41 passing touchdowns this year, Tagovailoa, with nearly 100 fewer attempts, is three scores from tying Drew Lock's SEC record.

What Tagovailoa did in the Orange Bowl was rare for that stage, though just another remarkable performance for the Hawaii-native. Tagovailoa's 236.7 passer rating against Oklahoma is his fifth-highest measure in a single game this season. That said, it's clear Tagovailoa was fired up and dialed in; his 88.9% completion percentage was the highest of his career when reaching double-digits in attempts. In leading Alabama to a convincing win over Murray and Oklahoma, Tagovailoa was as good as it gets.

It has truly been a legendary calendar year for Tagovailoa. Starting, back on January 8th, with his unprecedented relief appearance and now-iconic throw in the College Football Playoff Final, Tagovailoa just turned the page with  a semifinal showcase for the ages. His place in history already reserved, the game is waiting to see all that comes next.  

Tagovailoa didn't win the Heisman, but he did win the head-to-head. He was near-perfect in the process.

BJ Bennett - B.J. Bennett is SouthernPigskin.com's founder and publisher. He is the co-host of "Three & Out" with Kevin Thomas and Ben Troupe on the "Southern Pigskin Radio Network". Email: bj@espncoastal.com / Twitter: @BJBennettSports