ORLANDO, Fla. — Tua Tagovailoa got the start for Alabama in the Camping World Kickoff against Louisville on Saturday night and outplayed Jalen Hurts, but coach Nick Saban said after the 51-14 victory that he would continue to use both quarterbacks moving forward.
Tagovailoa led the first four series of the game, and the Crimson Tide scored touchdowns on three of those drives. The sophomore made plays with his arm and his legs, throwing beautiful drop passes and showing off accuracy on the run, too.
In all, Tagovailoa led six drives, and Hurts led four. Alabama did not score a touchdown when Hurts was behind center.
“We’re going to continue to have both these guys be weapons for us on offense because I think they can, and I hope both guys can do a good job of preparing and managing to get ready for the games so they can contribute to our team in a positive way,” Saban said.
“Tua played well and made some really good throws, very accurate throws, put the ball right on guys when they had halfway-decent coverage,” Saban said. “He made good decisions for the most part. We’ve got to get him to get two hands on the ball. He’s too loose with the ball in the pocket, and he’s going to get the ball knocked out of his hand. Those are the kind of things that I’m talking about that doesn’t get you ’til it gets you. So you’ve got to fix them before it gets you. But he played well. He executed. He did what he was supposed to do. He read the right things. He was well-prepared in the game.”
Saban said he told both quarterbacks who would start on Thursday before practice.
“They both knew exactly what the situation would be in the game. It’s how we practiced on Thursday, and I wanted Tua to play somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 plays, and then we’re going to put Jalen in the game,” Saban said. “It didn’t matter what the score was. He did some good things and some things we need to do better, both of them.”
The competition between Hurts and Tagovailoa has dominated headlines at Alabama this offseason: Would Hurts, 26-2 as a starter, keep his job after being benched in the national championship game against Georgia? Would Tagovailoa wrestle the job away after his impressive second-half performance to help the Tide rally and win the title in January?
Speculation has focused largely on Tagovailoa after his breakout performance in the title game. Tagovailoa, not Hurts, opened the season among the leading preseason Heisman Trophy favorites in Las Vegas.
Hurts, meanwhile, drew headlines in early August after he said coaches failed to communicate with him about the quarterback competition, though he dismissed speculation that he wanted to transfer.
Alabama didn’t make either quarterback available for comment after the game.