By PAUL JONES, Associated Press
STARKVILLE, Miss. — What was planned to be the last series of the day for Tua Tagovailoa ended in the final play of his season — and maybe his Alabama career.
The Crimson Tide’s star quarterback will miss the rest of the season after dislocating his right hip in the first half of No. 4 Alabama’s 38-7 victory over Mississippi State on Saturday.
Tagovailoa, the potential top pick in April’s NFL draft, was injured while being dragged down by two Bulldogs late in the first half, with the Tide up four touchdowns. He was flown by helicopter to the St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Hours later the school announced he has sustained a dislocated right hip.
“He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment,” Alabama team orthopedic surgeon Lyle Cain said in a statement. “He is expected to make a full recovery but will miss the remainder of the season.”
Tagovailoa had been nursing an ankle injury and Alabama was considering holding him out of this game. 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.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said 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.
“We can second guess ourselves all we want,” Saban said after the game. “We told Mac (Jones) to warm up and we were going to go 2-minute before the half. Tua wanted to play in the game and so I don’t really make a lot of decisions worrying if a guy is going to get hurt.”
Tagovailoa 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 by Jones, who went 7 for 11 for 94 yards.
Jones led the Crimson Tide to an easy victory when he started against Arkansas last month. Alabama faces Western Carolina next week before finishing the season at No. 13 Auburn.
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.
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. But that was as close it got. Harris finished with 88 yards rushing and 51 yards receiving. Jerry Jeudy had seven catches for 114 yards receiving for Alabama.
After the game, the mood among the Tide players was somber.
“I’m just hurt about our quarterback, what happened to our quarterback,” Harris said.
Alabama: Tide defensive tackle Raekwon Davis was also taken off the field with an apparent leg injury.
Mississippi State: The Bulldogs’ struggles on offensive continued against Alabama. Mississippi State had just 270 yards of offense and had only 82 yards passing against the Crimson Tide. In the past two meetings with Alabama, the Bulldogs have mustered seven points.
“We knew against a team of Alabama’s caliber that we needed things to go our way,” Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead said. “But spotting them a 14-0 lead three minutes into the game didn’t help. We didn’t execute enough and we didn’t coach well enough to win today.”
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.
The Bulldogs must now win out to be bowl eligible.