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Alabama QB Tagovailoa starts against LSU after ankle surgery

USA TODAY SPORTS logo USA TODAY SPORTS 11/9/2019 Adam Hensley, Montgomery Advertiser
a man wearing a helmet holding a baseball bat: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) warms up before the Alabama vs. LSU game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday November 9, 2019. © Mickey Welsh Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (13) warms up before the Alabama vs. LSU game at Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa, Ala., on Saturday November 9, 2019.

TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa started for the No. 1 Crimson Tide against No. 2 LSU in the first regular-season matchup of the top two teams in the country since 2011.

Tagovailoa, who underwent his second TightRope surgical procedure in the last 11 months on Oct. 20 after suffering a high ankle sprain, went through some throws on the move without pads prior to pregame warmups as Crimson Tide head trainer Jeff Allen observed him closely nearby. He later joined all the other Alabama quarterbacks for pregame warmups, with both ankles heavily wrapped.

Tagovailoa was later announced as the Crimson Tide's starting quarterback, drawing a big cheer from the Bryant-Denny Stadium crowd. It is his 23rd career start.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban expressed confidence that Tagovailoa would play Saturday during an early morning appearance on ESPN's College GameDay.

"He practiced really well all week long and in the short area he's been really good," Saban said on ESPN. "He feels good about it, I think he's confident. If he feels good in the pregame and we don't have a setback, I think he'll be able to play."

Tagovailoa's return in less than three weeks post-surgery was viewed by some medical experts in the tightrope procedure performed as "extraordinary" and "close to a miracle."

Despite his return, Tagovailoa is hardly 100% healthy and will likely be dealing some issues associated with his still-recovering right ankle, according to SEC Network analyst and former Florida quarterback Tim Tebow.

"I've done it, it's not fun, it's not easy," Tebow said Friday. "I'm sure he'll have some stuff to help him with the pain, but then it's all about (Saturday) afternoon. I think there are certain (times) as athletes where you just go into a place mentally where you know how important this game is to your team, to the season, to (winning a) championship, to your legacy, everything. And he'll be more worried about this game then he will the pain."

Tagovailoa injured his ankle in Alabama's 35-13 win against Tennessee. Midway through the second quarter, Tagovailoa rolled his ankle when he was sacked by Volunteer defensive lineman Greg Emerson.

Sophomore backup quarterback Mac Jones filled in for Tagovailoa in Auburn's 48-7 win over Arkansas on Oct. 26. He threw for 235 yards and three touchdowns.

This season, Tagovailoa has thrown for 2,166 yards, 27 touchdowns, and two interceptions in seven games, boasting a 212.4 passer efficiency rating.

Despite sitting out Alabama's 48-7 win over Arkansas on Oct. 26, Tagovailoa's touchdown passes still tie for third in the nation.

This article originally appeared on Montgomery Advertiser: Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa starting against LSU after ankle surgery

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