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BCS CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

Alabama's Leigh Tiffin prefers to keep things steady

The Crimson Tide kicker made 29 of 33 field-goal attempts this season while becoming a finalist for the Lou Groza Award and is within two field goals of tying the NCAA's single-season mark.

January 06, 2010|By Ben Bolch

The Space Mountain ride didn't much interest Leigh Tiffin when the Alabama kicker visited Disneyland a few days ago.

"I don't do roller coasters," he said Tuesday.

Tiffin prefers to avoid topsy-turvy situations on the field as well. He was one of the steadiest kickers in the nation this season, making 29 of 33 field-goal attempts while becoming a finalist for the Lou Groza Award that went to UCLA's Kai Forbath.

The Bruins kicker gave his Crimson Tide counterpart the lowdown on kicking at the Rose Bowl last month at an awards banquet, which could prove useful Thursday when Alabama plays Texas in the Bowl Championship Series title game.

"He said it's a great place to kick and it usually has the best turf," Tiffin said. "Obviously, the weather's great here. I don't expect it to be windy or anything, so I'm excited about playing there."

A senior who is within two field goals of tying the NCAA's single-season mark (31) and within five field goals of tying the career mark (87), Tiffin said he doesn't get nervous before a kick. Of course, he hasn't faced any pressure situations since November 2008, when Louisiana State blocked a 29-yard attempt in the final seconds of regulation. Alabama won in overtime.

Asked if he could block out the distractions inherent with a last-second kick in a national title game, Tiffin said, "I think I can, I really do. We've won an SEC championship and to be honest, I didn't feel that much different before or after the game."

Silent treatment

Should Tiffin need to make a late field goal, he probably won't receive any last-second tips from Alabama Coach Nick Saban, who compared kickers to "assassins" because they get only one shot in crunch time.

"I don't want to mess that up with a guy right before he's trying to pull the trigger," Saban said. "So I don't usually say anything."

That wasn't always the case. Saban said he spoke to his kicker in the final minutes of a game in 1997 when he was coaching at Michigan State. Spartans kicker Chris Gardner had one kick blocked and returned for a touchdown, and a subsequent 44-yard attempt that could have won the game squibbed off his foot and rolled into the end zone.

The die is cast

As if to illustrate that the cast on his left hand wouldn't prevent him from intercepting a pass, senior defensive back Marquis Johnson grabbed a reporter's notebook inside a Newport Beach hotel ballroom.

"I can grip this right here," said Johnson, who suffered a broken thumb late last month in practice.

Tuesday marked the first time that Johnson had practiced while wearing the hard cast that will be on his left hand for the BCS title game. He said he would not be more inclined to knock balls down than go for an interception because of the cast.

On call

Forget the weather, the beach or the trip to Lawry's for prime rib. Cornerback Javier Arenas said his favorite part about being in California was calling home.

"I like being on the phone telling everybody, 'I'm in California, where are you at?' " he said.

No laughing matter

Asked whether Saban and Texas defensive coordinator Will Muschamp, a former protege of the Alabama coach, were a bowl of laughs, quarterback Greg McElroy said, "I mean, I guess. I don't laugh at them. They scare me."

ben.bolch@latimes.com

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