Nico Johnson Can't Wait For LSU Game

Children have been waiting anxiously for the arrival of Christmas. Alabama football players, with six weeks between the final regular season game and the next one, are counting the days until kicking off against LSU.

Alabama was to have a final workout Friday morning before players go home for Christmas. The Crimson Tide will resume work Wednesday in preparation for the BCS National Championship Game against LSU. That game will be Jan. 9 in New Orleans.

One advantage of a long break since the 42-14 trouncing of Auburn on Nov. 26 and the BCS National Championship Game is players get a longer than usual Christmas break. Bama will go to New Orleans on Jan. 4 to complete preparations for the LSU game.

"I'm kind of ready to play the game," Alabama weakside linebacker Nico Johnson said.

Johnson, a 6-3, 238-pound junior from Andalusia, was a freshman when Bama played in the 2009 BCS National Championship Game. He thinks it's a harder wait this year. "Back then, when it was my first time, I wasn't expecting anything. It was just, ‘Oh, I've got to practice today and practice tomorrow.' I was just more or less going through the motions. Now I know I've got to practice and there's a game down the road.

"I'm just really anxious."

Johnson said that Alabama Coach Nick Saban "does a great job of keeping us levelheaded. This week his main focus is fundamentals, and that's what we're focusing on. Anything else, we're not even worrying about. After this week, when we come back from Christmas, we're going to focus more on LSU and get into that."

Johnson is familiar with LSU, and not just from the preparation before the Nov. 5 game in Tuscaloosa, when the Tigers defeated the Tide, 9-6 in overtime. That game is the difference in LSU being 13-0 and ranked first in the nation, Bama 11-1 and ranked second.

Johnson watched the film of the LSU "a lot after we lost, before the Auburn game. When we got into Auburn week, I watched it one more time. Since then, I haven't watched it. Coach Saban doesn't want us watching it this week so we can focus on fundamentals and get back to basics."

Johnson had a reason for watching the film.

"It was bothering to see the point in the game when it turned and what plays caused it. They made a lot of plays, some big plays that gave them momentum and took intensity away from us."

He said he learned that "any mistake can cost you the game, so you've got to play mistake-free the whole game, 60 minutes."

He said that Alabama players know LSU well. "It's not that difficult to study for them because they don't run that many plays," Johnson said. "They have trick plays, but they don't run that many. They're more of a downhill running team, a smash-mouth team just like we are. We like that kind of football."

Johnson said this period of "back to basics" for the defense had focused on tackling. "The coaches feel that going into a bowl game with this long period of time between games that the defense will miss more tackles when they have had that long period off," Johnson said. "That's what we've been focusing on, tackling in space."

Johnson was asked if Saban was tougher on the team after a loss than he was after a win.

"He's tough on us all the time," the linebacker said. "He expects the best from us week-in and week-out no matter who we play. He never changes from the beginning of the season to the end.

"He's very structured. He stays on top of everything and makes sure that everything is just right.

"This year his main focus is ‘finishing,' and not just finishing, but finishing strong. He's been preaching that since we lost the Auburn game last year. And that has stuck with everybody."

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