Tagovailoa went down shortly before halftime with Alabama leading, 35-7. He was carted off the field and appeared unable to support himself on his right leg. ESPN sideline reporter Molly McGrath reported Tagovailoa was “screaming in pain.”
He was taken via helicopter from Davis Wade Stadium in Starkville, Miss., to St. Vincent’s Medical Center in Birmingham, Ala.
“It’s kind of a freak thing you seldom see,” Crimson Tide Coach Nick Saban said in his postgame news conference.
Cain said the dislocation was “immediately reduced at the stadium. [Tagovailoa] is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment.”
Earlier reports indicated Tagovailoa also suffered a fracture of the joint’s posterior wall. Such an injury could be career threatening, though the school did not offer further details on the nature of Tagovailoa’s injury.
Hip dislocations are difficult for athletes to rehabilitate because of how thoroughly the joint’s socket is wrapped around the top of the femur, Ellen Smith, a recently retired emergency room and football team physician and director of sports medicine at MedStar Montgomery Hospital in Maryland, said in a phone interview. (Smith had not evaluated the quarterback and was speaking in general terms as a medical expert.)
With just more than three minutes to play in the second quarter and Alabama up, 35-7, Tagovailoa rolled out to his left and threw the ball away on third and four. But he was dragged down from behind as he released the ball and immediately showed signs of discomfort. Medical staff held a towel to his face to stop a nosebleed.
Tagovailoa, who missed a game last month after undergoing surgery on his right ankle, was a game-time decision Saturday after a rough-and-tumble loss last week to No. 1 LSU. Tagovailoa was not sacked in that game but took plenty of hits inside the pocket and on scrambles. He was clearly favoring his ankle as the game ended.
Saban said his quarterback Saturday was “at least as good as he was a week ago,” AL.com reported.
“We felt like if he could move in pregame, which we took him out before the team ever went out, he was good,” Saban said. “He was at least as good as he was a week ago in terms of his ability to move, and I didn’t think anything he did affected his performance in the first half. So … you know, the guy played.”
The Tide (9-1, 6-1 SEC) probably did not need Tagovailoa to defeat Mississippi State (4-6, 2-5). Mac Jones, Alabama’s backup, has been solid in relief appearances, and in his lone start against Arkansas on Oct. 26, he threw for three touchdowns and 235 yards on 18-for-22 passing. He completed seven passes in 11 attempts Saturday for 94 yards.
Tagovailoa was off to a blistering start before he was helped from the field, completing 14 of 18 passes for 256 yards and two scores.
That led to plenty of questions about why Tagovailoa remained in the game when Alabama was ahead by 28 points. Saban said Tagovailoa never lobbied to stay in the game but instead remained for one last drive to get more game experience in the two-minute drill.
“We can second guess ourselves all we want,” Saban said. “We told Mac to warm up, and we were going to go two-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.”
Losing Tagovailoa, a Heisman Trophy hopeful who came off the bench in the 2018 national championship game to lead the Tide to a win, could prove devastating for Alabama. He’s completed 70.9 percent of his passes this year and is averaging 323 passing yards in eight starts. In some of those blowout victories, Tagovailoa didn’t see the field for much of the second half.
The look of the Tide’s offense could change with Jones under center. The redshirt sophomore from Jacksonville, Fla., is not as athletic as a healthy Tagovailoa, nor does he have the same arm strength. That shouldn’t matter next week against Western Carolina, Alabama’s annual nonconference game in the lead up to the Iron Bowl against archrival Auburn.