Heisman Favorite Tua Tagovailoa Dazzles, Leads Alabama Past Arkansas

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistOctober 6, 2018

OXFORD, MS - SEPTEMBER 15:  Tua Tagovailoa #13 of the Alabama Crimson Tide reacts during a game against the Mississippi Rebels at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on September 15, 2018 in Oxford, Mississippi.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images)
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Tua Tagovailoa continued to build his Heisman Trophy case with four touchdown passes Saturday afternoon to lead the top-ranked Alabama Crimson Tide to a 65-31 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks at Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium in Fayetteville, Arkansas.

Tagovailoa completed 10 of his 13 throws for 334 yards with zero interceptions in his latest incredibly efficient outing. The standout performance helped Bama improve to 6-0, including 3-0 in the SEC.

Alabama gained 463 yards in the first half and won the yardage battle 639-405. It also forced three turnovers while committing none.

   

Tagovailoa Emerging As Heisman Favorite

The Alabama sophomore has been lauded for his playmaking ability. That took center stage in last season's national championship game when he guided the Tide's comeback victory over the Georgia Bulldogs with three touchdowns after replacing Jalen Hurts.

What's been more impressive in recent weeks is his accuracy and ability to read defenses.

Tagovailoa connected on all eight of his throws for 128 yards and two touchdowns in limited work last week in the team's 56-14 blowout of the Louisiana Ragin' Cajuns.

While the offensive line also deserves credit for keeping a clean pocket and giving the star a chance to throw, the 20-year-old Hawaii native moves through his progressions quickly and doesn't miss open receivers. It's a clinic on how to run an offense.

He's now completed at least 68.4 percent of his attempts in all six of Alabama's games and hasn't thrown any interceptions. Add in the team's stout defense, and it's easy to see why the Tide are unbeaten.

Put it all together—the elite numbers, the highlight-reel plays and the team's success—and there isn't a more complete Heisman resume in the country. If Tagovailoa maintains this level throughout SEC play, he could run away with college football's top individual honor.

   

Jerry Jeudy's Big-Play Ability Will Prove Vital for Tide

Bama's receiving depth is another factor working in Tagovailoa's favor. Henry Ruggs III, Irv Smith Jr., DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle are all capable of coming up big any given week. But Jeudy, who caught two touchdowns Saturday, is the title contender's most consistent, dynamic threat.

The sophomore had scoring plays of 42 and 60 yards against the Razorbacks. That gives him four touchdowns of at least 40 yards already this season.

Alabama hasn't really needed those types of plays, winning every game by at least 22 points, but they will prove crucial if he can continue to provide them. He can be the difference-maker in what should be closer games against the likes of the LSU Tigers and Auburn Tigers.

The Tide's other weapons ensure opposing defenses can't flood Jeudy's side of the field, and he's made it clear he'll destroy single coverage. It creates a nightmare matchup that should reap rewards all year for the reigning national champs.

   

Arkansas' Defensive Woes Set Stage for More Lopsided Losses

It took exactly one play from scrimmage to realize the Hogs were in for a long afternoon.

Tagovailoa dropped back and found Irv Smith on a quick pass in the flat. The junior tight end proceeded to beat multiple defenders to the sideline and went 76 yards to the house. It's the type of mistake that's plagued the unit all season.

The Razorbacks (1-5, 0-3) have now given up at least 20 points in all six of their contests, including 34 or more four times. Though those are troublesome figures regardless of the circumstances, it's an even bigger issue in the stacked SEC.

Arkansas' schedule does get more favorable for the rest of October, but a finishing stretch that features games against LSU, the Mississippi State Bulldogs and Missouri could be ugly if the defense doesn't make significant improvements.

   

What's Next?

The Tide return home to Bryant-Denny Stadium next Saturday for an SEC clash with the Missouri Tigers.

Arkansas will head to Little Rock to face the Ole Miss Rebels with hopes of ending its five-game losing streak.

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