STARKVILLE, Miss. — What was planned to be the last series of the day for Tua Tagovailoa resulted in the final play of his season — and maybe his Alabama football career.
The Crimson Tide's star quarterback is out 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 (9-1, 6-1 Southeastern Conference) up four touchdowns. He was flown by helicopter to St. Vincent's Medical Center in Birmingham, Alabama. Hours later, the school announced details on his injury.
"He is undergoing further testing to determine the best course of treatment," Alabama team orthopedic surgeon Lyle Cain said in a released 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 one game after the operation.
Alabama coach Nick Saban said the plan was to remove Tagovailoa from Saturday's game against the Bulldogs (4-6, 2-5) before the series during which the quarterback was injured. Alabama was leading 35-7, but a decision was made 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. "We told (backup) Mac (Jones) 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."
Tagovailoa was 14-of-18 passing for 256 yards and two touchdown passes against Mississippi State, giving him 31 this season. He was replaced by Jones, who went 7-for-11 for 94 yards.
"Thank you all for the prayers and well wishes," Tagovailoa posted later Saturday on Twitter. "God always has a plan."
Jones led the Tide to an easy victory when he started against Arkansas last month. Alabama faces Western Carolina next Saturday before finishing the season at No. 13 Auburn.
Alabama tailback Najee Harris told reporters he wasn't in the mood to answer questions, saying: "I'm just hurt about our quarterback, what happened to our quarterback."
Harris also said: "He means a lot to our team. It's our guy. I came here at the same time he did. Been friends with him since my freshman season. For him to go down like that really hurts."
The Tide 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 faces the possibility of trying to impress the committee without Tagovailoa, the Heisman Trophy runner-up last season.
Tagovailoa played well against LSU, passing for more than 400 yards, but he was clearly limited, favoring his right ankle at times. Saban said Tagovailoa's playing status was a game-time decision against Mississippi State. He started, though, and the Tide took a 14-0 lead on a touchdown run and a touchdown catch by Harris, who finished with four touchdowns.
Mississippi State cut the lead to 14-7 on a 1-yard touchdown run by Kylin Hill. But that was as close it got. Harris finished with 88 yards and 51 receiving. Jerry Jeudy had seven catches for 114 yards for Alabama.
Tide defensive tackle Raekwon Davis was also taken off the field during the game with an apparent leg injury.
As for the Bulldogs, their struggles on offense continued against Alabama. Mississippi State had just 270 yards of offense and passed for only 82 yards. In the past two meetings with Alabama, the Bulldogs have mustered seven points.
Now they must win their final two regular-season games to be eligible for a bowl game.
"We knew against a team of Alabama's caliber that we needed things to go our way," 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."
Area sports notes: Union tops Bryan in overtime in Appalachian Athletic Conference men's soccer final