Published 12:02 am Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Alabama senior linebacker and Andalusia native Nico Johnson (35) tackles Auburn’s Tre Mason Saturday at Bryant-Denny Stadium. On this play, Johnson forces the fumble. | Crimson Tide Photography

Alabama senior linebacker Nico Johnson recorded two tackles in the Crimson Tide’s 49-0 rout over Auburn on Saturday.

The Andalusia native had two unassisted tackles and added one forced fumble, which was returned by fellow defender Dee Milliner for excellent field position.

Alabama went on to take a 42-0 lead by halftime and earned a right to play in the SEC Championship this Saturday at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta.

Johnson said during an SEC teleconference that it’s critical to put pressure on Bulldogs quarterback ace Aaron Murray.

“It’s going to be very important,” he said. “If we let him sit back in the pocket, he can hurt you. It has shown all year.”

This season, Murray is No. 1 in passing efficiency followed by Alabama junior QB A.J. McCarron.

“We are going to have to make him less comfortable in the pocket,” Johnson said. “That’s one of our goals going into every game is affect the quarterback the best way you can, and that’s what we’re going to have to do.”

Luckily, Alabama has defensive coordinator Kirby Smart calling the plays against Georgia’s pro-style offense.

Johnson said Smart has a different view of the game than the players.

“He sees things that happen before they even happen,” he said. “Every time we come off the field, we are correcting things from the last series or things he thinks are going to happen the next series.

“He is Coach Smart; he is here for a reason. He (Smart) just tries to make us understand where he feels like we are vulnerable at during the game, and he is going to make the right call to put us in the best situation to make a play.”

Johnson said every time he goes out to practice or play in a game, he’s playing for his mom.

“When I lost my mom, it was kind of difficult,” he said. “I didn’t know which way to turn. It just had me stuck for a minute. (Strength and conditioning) Coach (Scott) Cochran, thank God, he got me through that time.

“Every year, every time I go out on the practice field or the field, it’s for her,” he said. “She’s the one who kept me motivated. She’s the one who wanted me to get my degree and play my best no matter what the adversity or circumstance, so every time I go out, I try to give my best because you never know what can happen. You never know when my last football game is going to be, so I try to give my best week in, week out.”

The SEC Championship game will be televised on CBS. Kick off is at 3 p.m. CST.