Tejada Off To Strong Start

FAYETTEVILLE -- Alex Tejada knew all the eyes of Razorback Nation would one day be centered on him. He just didn't know it would happen so fast or so often.

With Arkansas' kicking game a big reason for the Razorbacks' three straight losses at the end of the 2006 season, finding a strong placekicker was a top priority heading into the offseason. Judging by the performance Saturday in Arkansas' 46-26 season-opening win against Troy in front of 73,926 in Reynolds Razorback Stadium, that priority has been addressed.

In his first collegiate game, Tejada -- a 6-foot-1, 202-pound true freshman from nearby Springdale High -- managed to add to his already growing popularity by nailing 4 of 4 field goals against the Trojans. From distances of 35, 23, 28 and 30 yards, Tejada wasn't exactly attempting long-distance range.

What Tejada was doing, though, was keeping Arkansas fans happy by adding successful attempt after successful attempt -- something Razorbacks faithful haven't seen for quite some time.

"I love the iceblood in his veins," Arkansas coach Houston Nutt said. "He acted like he was a senior tonight and you just have so much confidence in Alex.

"He's right down the middle. He's very calm, he's focused and he's just a guy you believe in, and I really believe in Alex Tejada."

Tejada has no problems believing in himself either. But it didn't hurt things when he was able to race onto the Razorback Stadium grass and kick his first college field goal quickly after things got started Saturday.

After seeing Arkansas' first drive stall at the Troy 18, Tejada was quickly called into action. And he delivered a 35-yarder straight down the shoot.

"I hoped it was going to be an extra point on my first kick," Tejada said. "But we went out there and the field goal team did a good job.

"It definitely gives you confidence, but this is just one game. We've got another big game coming up (in two weeks) and we've just got to keep getting better."

Yes, even Tejada could improve on Saturday's effort. After all, despite becoming the first Arkansas kicker since Chris Balseiro at the 2003 Independence Bowl to kick four field goals, there was a missed extra point by Tejada late in the game.

For now, though, coaches will let that one slide.

"I'm just glad he got off to a great start," Arkansas special teams coach James Shibest said. "I still got onto him a little bit about missing that extra point, but I think he just relaxed a little bit there.

"It's just a good feeling and now we've got to take it on the road. We just feel good about the guy. I feel good about him, feel good about putting out there in game situations and he's very confident. But he's not going to make everyone, we know that. We're just proud of his start."

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