Sunday’s Week 14 game between the Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins won’t be the first occasion in which wide receiver Mecole Hardman and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa take opposite sides of the field in an important game.
This time, the Chiefs are competing for a bye week as the Dolphins are hoping for a playoff berth. Last time, it was the 2018 College Football Playoff national championship between Hardman’s Georgia Bulldogs and Tagovailoa’s Alabama Crimson Tide.
“Tua [is] a great quarterback, man,” said Hardman of the Miami rookie. “He did his thing at Alabama, and he’s doing the thing with the Dolphins as well. I think he’ll have a great career.”
Then Hardman reluctantly switched gears, remembering the game — one that saw Hardman score two touchdowns to help Georgia build a 20-7 lead, only to blow it to Tagovailoa and Alabama.
Trailing 13-0 to Hardman’s team at the half, Alabama head coach Nick Saban famously swapped out Jalen Hurts for Tagovailoa.
“Here comes Tua, the backup QB — and starts having a good game,” said Hardman. “Me honestly, I’m talking college-wise, I don’t think he did nothing special. I think we just messed up a lot. I think he came in and just made the right throws — I mean, freakin’ third-and-23, second-and-23 or something like that — blown coverage on the back end.”
Facing a 23-20 deficit in overtime, Tagovailoa hit wide receiver DeVonta Smith on a 41-yard touchdown pass to give Alabama the 26-23 victory.
“The game should have been over, man,” Hardman recalled. “I think he did what he’s supposed to do.”
Tagovailoa finished the title game 14 of 24 for 166 yards, three touchdowns and an interception, earning Alabama’s starting job for the 2019 season.
“The following year when he came in and actually solidified the starting quarterback, I think he made a name for himself to show that he was really the best quarterback in college football at that time,” added Hardman.