Tiffin Provides Tejada With Example

FAYETTEVILLE — Alex Tejada wasn't in Reynolds Razorback Stadium the day Alabama's Leigh Tiffin melted down, the day Tiffin's name became forever etched in the minds of Arkansas fans.

Tejada sat at his house in Springdale on Sept. 23, 2006, watching the Crimson Tide and Razorbacks on TV, mesmerized by Tiffin's kicking implosion. After three costly missed kicks by Tiffin, which allowed the Hogs to win 24-23, Arkansas' sophomore kicker remembers how he felt.

Probably how most felt after watching Tejada miss three first-half kicks in Arkansas' last game, a 28-27 victory over Louisiana-Monroe on Sept. 13.

"It was tough to watch," Tejada said. "I realize now what (Tiffin) went through. I've almost been there. We ended up winning the game, which was a positive, which is what really matters. But it's always tough with something like that.

"You have to just forget about it."

Tejada says that he's "over it," that he's over the two missed field goals, the yanked extra point, the delay-of-game penalty, the out-of-bounds kickoff. He says he feels like "it's actually kind of good it happened because I learned a lot from it." Seemingly relaxed as he leans back on a Broyles Center couch, he says "I'm just ready to have a big game on Saturday" against No. 8 Alabama.

He can't provide any tangible evidence to prove this. He can't prove he won't boot duck-hooks with his right foot against the Crimson Tide. Tiffin can, however, serve as an example that a kicker can recover from such a meltdown.

Tiffin started the 2006 season kicking for the Crimson Tide, as a true freshman, only because injuries kept starter Jamie Christensen from playing the first five games. He started strong by making 7 of 8 field goals in two games. He even nailed a game-winning 47-yarder against Vanderbilt, which endeared him to the fans who remembered his father, Van, beating Auburn with an unforgettable 52-yarder in 1985.

But disaster struck the next week. Tiffin missed a 34-yarder early in the second quarter at Arkansas and then missed three more kicks. And they weren't tough attempts — a 30-yarder near the end of the fourth quarter, a 37-yarder in the first overtime and an extra point in the second overtime.

Three straight simple kicks, three straight misses. Sound familiar? But Tiffin eventually rebounded and nailed 25 of his 34 field-goal attempts last season as a sophomore. Now, the Crimson Tide doesn't see Tiffin as that shaky freshman. Alabama sees him as a steady threat.

"I can tell a huge difference from the first time he stepped on the field until now," punter P.J. Fitzgerald told the Mobile Press-Register before the season started. "His confidence is sky-high now."

Not high enough to revisit the issue with the media, though. Tiffin didn't talk to any reporters this week as he prepared for his return to Fayetteville.

Tejada didn't shy away from addressing his difficulties in Little Rock and exuded confidence earlier this week. Without that confidence, Tom Feely said, Tejada would have trouble recovering from the effort that resulted in sophomore Shay Haddock replacing Tejada at halftime.

Feely, the father of NFL kicker Jay Feely, runs a kicking school in Florida that works with about 1,000 kickers and punters each year. When told that Arkansas coach Bobby Petrino screamed at Tejada after his first miss, Feely said that likely didn't help Tejada.

"You've got to show that you have faith in the guy," Feely said. "You have to build him up. If his confidence is rattled, that won't help. He has to be able to relax. Every kicker is going to miss, but he has to be able to take 20 seconds, reflect on what he did wrong and then forget it."

Tejada said everyone has been positive with him the past two weeks, as he fought to reclaim his starting job, including Petrino. That atmosphere has helped him put his "worst day" behind him, he said. Reminders such as Tiffin's struggles and subsequent success can't hurt, either.

"As football players, we have to go through adversity sometimes, and I realize that," Tejada said. "I feel like I handled it well. I feel like I'm better for it. I know everyone will be watching to see how I do. But regardless of that, I'm just going to go out there and do my job."

Alex Tejada

Class: Sophomore

Height: 6-1

Weight: 207

Hometown: Springdale

Notables: Has made 4 of 5 extra-point attempts and and missed both field-goal tries in two games in 2008. ... Was 17-of-23 (.739) on field goals and 58-of-60 on extra points last season as a true freshman, earning second-team all-Southeastern Conference honors. ... Ranked fourth in the SEC and No. 40 in the nation in scoring with 8.4 points per game last season. ... Made a 55-yard field goal and earned all-state honors as a senior at Springdale High.

Leigh Tiffin

Class: Junior

Height: 6-1

Weight: 199

Hometown: Muscle Shoals, Ala.

Notables: Led the Southeastern Conference with 10 field goal of more than 40 yards last season as a sophomore. ... Was 25 of 34 (.735) on field goals last season after making 8 of 16 (50.0) in 2006 as a true freshman. ... Is the son of one of the most prolific kickers in Alabama history, Van Tiffin, whose memorable 52-yarder won the 1985 Iron Bowl game with Auburn.

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