Teacher Shares Experience at Championship Game
January 25, 2018
Living in a state where football is by far the most popular sport and topic for most of the year, it can be quite a luxury. To those who hold the old pigskins dearly to their heart, being a fan of the most decorated and successful college football program just adds to that enjoyment. For fans who got to witness Alabama’s 17th National Championship live and those who proudly watched from back home, it was by far a wild ride.
“I have not missed a championship game since Saban has been there,” teacher Janet Whitworth said. “I think once it was announced, we were trying to get tickets. We were not sure if we would get them but we were trying as soon as the championship tickets went up for sell.”
Once Whitworth acquired her tickets, less than a week before the game, it was off to packing for the championship game in Atlanta. Along with her team spirit, she also brought her gameday nerves to the peach state.
“We left Alabama on Sunday morning and arrived that afternoon,” Whitworth said. “I always get nervous, kind of a sick nervous. Going into the game I wasn’t as nervous but after kickoff it was bad.”
Even after kickoff Alabama’s play on the field did not settle Whitworth’s nerves. The Crimson Tide suffered their worst first half of the season being shut out by the Georgia Bulldogs, 13-0.
“I never thought that of Tua Tagovailoa as an alternative and I just thought we were flat out done,” Whitworth said. “I just didn’t think that Saban would ever change in that sense, but I think it was a very gutsy move. I am more attached to Jalen Hurts. He is such a good kid. I just couldn’t give up on him that quickly, but I was worried about him because he didn’t seem as energetic to me in the game.”
Back at home medical academy teacher, Kimberly Goins, came to an ultimatum regarding the quarterback controversy for Alabama. The Crimson Tide’s Head Coach, Nick Saban, had just made one of the biggest decisions in his career and many fans including Kimberly saw it coming.
“I thought they would take out Jalen Hurts,” Goins said. “I had hoped that would happen during the Auburn game simply because they had Hurts number and he couldn’t do anything. So I was glad they pulled the trigger on that and put in Tua Tagovailoa.”
The true freshman, Tagovailoa, had only played in a few games all season against decent opponents, so stepping into the National Championship game after halftime was as big of a task as any. He would lead the Tide on a daring comeback to tie up the game and potentially win the title. After getting the ball back late in the fourth quarter, Tagovailoa set up the Tide for a potential game winning 36-yard field goal with only seconds to spare. What happened next would shock the entire country.
“I felt sorry for the kicker,” Goins said. “That is a lot of pressure for a college player to be under.” I realized it was still a tie and that we were going into overtime but I still felt sorry for him.”
Back in the Mercedes-Benz Stadium overtime was ready to get underway. Georgia would get the ball first, and after being stalled would be forced to kick a 51-yard field goal in which Rodrigo Blankenship would nail. 23-20 Bulldogs. Now all the pressure is reverted to Tagovailoa to score at any cost. On the first play Tagovailoa loses 16-yards by getting sacked in an obvious rookie mistake.
“I was thinking that’s it,” Whitworth said. “I kept saying to myself this is it, and then I think the next play developed really rapidly because I was saying a little prayer. Before I even wrapped up my prayer this electric scream happened and I have never heard anything like it. It was just like an explosion. I remember looking up asking what happened, and everyone was grabbing me, and hugging me and throwing me around. It was like one of those magical moments, and I remember going to school there and how some games were just like that. I remember the happiest and saddest ones, like Auburn beating us 17-16 in Birmingham while blocking two of our punts was horrible. But this win will stick with me forever.”
Regardless of opinion on which quarterback should play, or what plays to run all Alabama fans can agree that number 17 feels special.
“Oh I think it feels good because nobody wanted us in the playoff,” Goins said. “I honestly think we were put in because they did not think that we were good enough and that we were gonna get beaten in the first round by Clemson. It just proves that we did deserve to be in the playoffs.”