Seven months ago, something rare happened at Alabama.
The Crimson Tide suffered a loss, and not just any loss, but a 44-16 thumping at the hands of the Clemson in the College Football Playoff National Championship in Santa Clara, Calif.
For quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, it was just the second defeat in two years and the first since he took over as the starter to begin the 2018 season.
A season in which the 2017 Saint Louis alumnus set the Alabama record for passing TD’s and passing yards and was named the National Player of the Year by The Sporting News ended with the worst loss suffered by Alabama in two decades.
At Wednesday’s Southeastern Conference media day event, Tagovailoa called the loss “good” and admitted it sounded weird, but he made his point.
“Coming off that loss from Clemson and then earlier my freshman year we won the national championship, I think they were both good,” Tagovailoa told the assembled group of reporters. “I know that sounds weird, you know, to lose, but when you win it’s a great feeling, but when you (lose) it isn’t a great feeling and I think it was good that we lost because what can you learn if you keep winning?”
Alabama has done a lot of that, going 27-2 since Tagovailoa came on campus in the spring of 2017 following his All-State player of the year season as a senior in leading the Crusaders to their first of three straight Open Division state titles.
That’s what made January’s 28-point loss to Clemson all the more stunning. A team with five national titles in nine years was already defeated before the end of the third quarter.
As Tagovailoa pointed out, it’s a moment that has stuck in the mind of every returning player on the team.
“A lot of us have come back and it’s something that you don’t take for granted now,” he said. “Winning isn’t something you should take for granted.”
With Jalen Hurts moving on to Oklahoma, this is the first year there won’t be any “quarterback controversy” in fall camp.
The 2019 Crimson Tide are Tagovailoa’s team to lead and he’ll do it with Steve Sarkisian as offensive coordinator.
Sarkisian, the former head coach at Washington and Southern California, tried to recruit Tagovailoa to the Trojans in high school but eventually ended up as offensive coordinator for the Atlanta Falcons for the past two years.
He now returns to Alabama after serving as an analyst for Alabama in 2016. He was promoted to offensive coordinator for the 2017 national championship game before taking the Atlanta job.
“With coach Sarkisian we’ve built a great relationship ever since I was being recruited (in high school),” Tagovailoa said. “Knowing that I had the relationship with him (and now) just rekindling it, he’s taught not only to me but (all of) the quarterbacks a good amount of things.”
Another bright spot for Tua is seeing his brother, Taulia, out there on the same practice field.
After playing at Kapolei for two years, Taulia Tagovailoa transferred to Thompson Academy in Alabama for his final two years of high school football before signing with the Crimson Tide.
“I mean it’s fun, but we kind of came to this thing where on the field it’s business,” Tua said. “He’s gotta work. I’ve gotta work. Everyone is working for a job and everyone is working for a spot.
“Off the field thats my brother. That’s someone I gotta take care of. I gotta love on him. If he needs anything I’m going to be there for him, so it’s kind of like there’s a switch that goes on on the field and a switch that goes off off the field.”
Alabama opens its season against Duke on Aug. 31.