STARKVILLE, Miss. — What figured to be Tua Tagovailoa’s final series of the day against Mississippi State ended with Alabama’s star quarterback being carted off the field with a hip injury.
Now the question is not how much Alabama should play Tagovailoa against an overmatched opponent, but whether he will ever play for the Crimson Tide again?
Tagovailoa was injured while being dragged down late in the first half, with the Tide up four touchdowns, and No. 4 Alabama went on to beat Mississippi State, 38-7, Saturday in a game that might have cost the Crimson Tide one of the best players in college football.
Tagovailoa was tackled from behind by Bulldogs linebacker Leo Lewis. Tagovailoa stayed down on the ground for several minutes as Alabama medical staff attended to him. He needed help getting to his feet and was carted off the field with 3:01 left in the second quarter. He also had a bloody nose.
‘‘He has a hip injury. It’s going to be evaluated. I don’t think it’s related to any other injury that he has,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It’s kind of a freak thing that you seldom see. So, I don’t really have anything else to say about that, and we’ll kind of go from there.”
Alabama officials confirmed Tagovailoa was flown by helicopter to the St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala. He was 14 of 18 for 256 yards and two touchdown passes against Mississippi State, giving him 31 TD passes on the season. He was replaced in the second half by Mac Jones, who went 7 for 11 for 94 yards.
Tagovailoa had been nursing an ankle injury and Alabama was considering holding him out of this game.
“We can second-guess ourselves all we want,” Saban said. “I really don’t make decisions based on players getting hurt.”
The junior needed surgery four weeks ago for a high ankle sprain on his right leg that caused him to miss a game and a half. Saban told ESPN at halftime the plan was to remove Tagovailoa from the game before the series when the quarterback was injury. Alabama was leading, 35-7, but it was decided to let Tagovailoa play one more possession to get some work in the two-minute drill.
The Crimson Tide (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) were coming off a 46-41 loss to LSU that nudged it out of College Football Playoff position to fifth in the latest selection committee rankings. Now Alabama is facing the possibility of trying to impress the committee without Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy runner-up from last season and a potential top-10 selection in the NFL Draft.
Tagovailoa played well against LSU, passing for more than 400 yards, but he was gimpy at times, favoring his right ankle. Saban said Tagovailoa was a game-time decision against Mississippi State. He started and the Tide jumped out to a 14-0 lead on a touchdown run and a touchdown catch by Najee Harris, who finished with four TDs.
Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5) cut the lead to 14-7 on a 1-yard scoring run by Kylin Hill. The Bulldogs must now win out to be bowl eligible.
Harris finished with 88 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving. Jerry Jeudy had seven catches for 114 yards receiving for Alabama.
Tommy Stevens was 12 of 21 passing for Mississippi State and had just 82 yards passing. Stevens did rush for 96 yards on 10 carries.
Tide defensive tackle Raekwon Davis was also taken off the field with an apparent leg injury.