Photo: Dale Zanine/USA Today Sports

Former Channelview star Jalen Hurts entered Monday night’s national title game with a 25-2 record as a starter at Alabama. It was the second straight year the Crimson Tide were on the biggest stage in college football. Yet, the evening (initially) didn’t go quite as planned.

Hurts struggled in the first half against a swarming Georgia defense, throwing for just 21 yards in the game and running for 47 yards before being benched at halftime for the freshman southpaw from Hawaii in Tua Tagovailoa.

Some took to social media to call the decision a panic move. Others thought that the move was necessary given Alabama’s struggles on offense. In the end, Alabama head coach Nick Saban indicated it was the necessary move.

“I just thought we had to throw the ball in the game and I thought he (Tua) could do it better and he did,” Saban said to reporters after the game on his decision.

Hurts even indicated that as well, telling ESPN’s Tom Rinaldi, “He was going to step in and do his thing.”

Tagovailoa threw for 166 yards and three touchdowns, including a 41-yard walk-off touchdown to DeVonta Smith to stun the Georgia Bulldogs 26-23 in overtime and find themselves back on top of the college football mountain.

The freshman from the Aloha State did his thing and Jalen Hurts showed even more on the biggest stage, handling his replacement with class and maturity.

It was not an easy move to handle and accept. But, the young sophomore was there for his team every step of the way to give Tagovailoa encouragement.

His message to him via Rinaldi was simple: “Ball and play your game.”

In short, Tagovailoa did with his strong arm and explosive mobility that provided a jolt of energy for the Alabama offense.

After he threw his first touchdown pass in the third quarter, Hurts was right there as one of the first of his teammates to congratulate him. Even after an interception in that same quarter, he was there.

For some, they may not have had that same reaction after being subbed out. However, as Hurts told ESPN’s Marty Smith, that encouragement and support has been there from the beginning.

“It’s been like that all season between me and him,” Hurts said, “He had his opportunity to step up and he did for our team tonight.”

Alabama would not be in this position without Hurts’ efforts during the season. Saban made that abundantly clear in his postgame comments.

No one knows what’s in store for the future of Jalen Hurts after this game. He could stay in Tuscaloosa and compete for the starting job or possibly transfer seeking another opportunity to play.

Either way, Hurts showed strong leadership as a new national champion and leaves Atlanta in a smile and his head held high.

“We just won the national championship,” he said via ESPN’s Ryan McGee, “I’ve got nothing to be sad about.”

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