After being fired at KU with three games to play in the 2001 season, Allen spent much of last Nov. 17 with a rake in hand instead of leading his team in its Big 12 finale against ISU. It was too difficult to watch a team he put together go through the motions under an interim leader.
"The Iowa State-Kansas game I watched from my living room," Allen said. "When Tony Yelk made the great play, pulled it down and they didn't block the kid, I went outside and raked the yard. I went back inside from time to time and checked the scores. I knew it was by the wayside when that transpired.
"I was obviously disappointed in how everything transpired and feel bad for that football team, because I felt as though the way they handled it I abandoned those guys. I have not been able to be real comfortable, as far as having relationships and talking with those former players, because I was forced to leave and they got hung out to dry."
In order to get one final meeting with the players he had grown so close to, Allen went so far as to sneak into the locker room prior to the ISU game. Not the way it's supposed to be for a head coach in his fifth year on the job.
"I had a final meeting with them and then I literally snuck into the Iowa State game before kickoff and went into and talked to the players individually," he said. "I met and talked with the seniors, because that acted as a senior game for us because it was the originally the final scheduled home game."
But those days are history and all of Allen's focus as associate head coach and tight ends coach are to help get the Cyclones win their Big 12 opener and erase memories of last Saturday's 38-31 loss to Florida State.
Although he is still disappointed at the events of last November, Allen says the focus should totally be on the game played by the respective team's players.
"First and foremost, obviously this is a story because I was involved with Kansas," he said. "The thing that I feel bad about is that it's hard to look in their eye, because you disappointed them since you had to abandon them. That's why I was so bitter about how it transpired. But the reality of the situation is that this game has nothing to do with me. It's about Iowa State bouncing back after playing their guts out against Florida State and starting Big 12 play."
It goes without saying that Allen will play an even bigger role in game preparation this week, since he recruited a majority of the KU players that will make the trek to Ames. He presented his new team a detailed report on Monday night.
"He definitely gives us a good feeling of the personnel," said defensive lineman Jordan Carstens. "He gave an in-depth scouting report yesterday and he knows a lot of the players and a lot about them. He brought that to this game and I think that's going to help us.
Having a read on the tendencies of every Jayhawk will probably be about all that ISU will have prior to Saturday, though. KU, which opens its 2002 season on Saturday, hired as its head coach former Oklahoma and Kansas State offensive coordinator Mark Mangino, who in turn hired Cyclone wide receivers coach Nick Quartaro to lead his offense.
Coach Dan McCarney's hunch is that Iowa State staff will see glimpses of past packages at ISU and Oklahoma.
"We figure it will be a pretty good combination," McCarney said. "We fully anticipate seeing some offense from both of those. Mark's an excellent coach. Everywhere he's been he's won. He's had a lot to do with the success at Kansas State and Oklahoma, just like Nick had a lot to do with ours at Iowa State."
While the Cyclones might not have a clue what KU will throw at them come Saturday, one thing is for sure. Allen will have the same enthusiasm and charisma that have been a trademark in the past.
"It's been so refreshing for me," Allen said. "You come in here and see how Coach Mac has done it. It's what you believe in. The way Mac does it is what I believe in."
Newcomers, first-time starters grade out well
It wasn't the easiest initiation to big-time college football, but McCarney and his staff didn't have much of a choice than to turn lose some newcomers on Saturday. Nick Leaders, JaMaine Billups, Cale Stubbe, Dewayne Johnson and a few others either saw their first D-I action or played for the first time at a new position.
After looking at the game tape Sunday, McCarney had some good things to say about the group overall.
"They all did a solid job," he said. "There were no All-Big 12 performances out there, but anybody that hit the field for the first time did a solid job. Three offensive linemen started for the first time, but the two newcomers were solid for us. They've got to improve a lot this week and play much better."
The two performances that stood out the most came from Leaders and Billups, who played key roles on the defensive side of the ball. Leaders came off the bench to spell starting nose guard Tim Tebrink, while Billups took over early for the injured Anthony Forrest at strong safety.
"Nick Leaders did a real nice job in there playing against a veteran, top-five team in the country's offensive line," McCarney said. "But he's got to improve and step it up this week. I was real impressed with JaMaine Billups, because he's been at that position less than three weeks. He stepped in and played the entire game and did a solid job."
Forgetting about Florida State
Reflecting on last Saturday's game is agonizing enough for the Cyclone fans that watched in person and on TV. But what about the players and coaches that came from 24 points down to come one yard shy of tying the third-ranked team in the nation? Sounds like a hangover waiting to happen.
But asked if he was concerned about a letdown from his team this weekend, McCarney didn't waste a second in replying.
"I have no worries whatsoever," McCarney said. "The Big 12 Conference race and a Big 12 home game, I'm going to make sure that we don't have any kind of letdown. We just can't afford it. We'll get beat this week and every week if there is any kind of letdown. You've got to have the same kind of effort, tempo, heart and courage that we showed Saturday night every time we line up. We're not good enough, talented enough and deep enough to play any other style of football."
Linebacker Brandon Brown, one of the Cyclones' top linebackers on Saturday, has already turned his attention to the Jayhawks.
"We have moved on already," he said. "You take it one game at a time. We have to take this loss and move on, even though we think we should have won. Kansas is what we're focusing on right now and starting the Big 12 schedule."
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