Allen Feeling the Heat

While Mike Allen looked great throughout spring practice, including a perfect Spring Game, he feels Scott Campbell breathing down his neck.

Mike Allen has had his highs and lows as the Badgers place kicker.

Coming off a dramatic game-winning kick in Wisconsin's 31-28 overtime Alamo Bowl victory over No. 14 Colorado and a successful spring practice season, though, one might expect Allen to be content with his position as Wisconsin's place kicker.

It seemed apparent after Saturday's annual spring game, after all, that Allen had separated himself from the team's other kickers, drilling field goals of 39 and 44 yards, while Scott Campbell and Matt Domonkos were each 0-for-1 on primary kick opportunities. (The game allotted for second attempts after each field goal or point-after attempt.)

When asked about being the clear No. 1 kicker, however, Allen expressed anything but contentment.

"Scott Campbell is right on my butt," Allen said. "It is kind of frustrating with him always there. I can't go through a practice where if I miss one — I only get two or three chances per practice — if I miss one field goal I am getting my butt reamed out the whole time. And Scott Campbell, if I miss, I know he is going to make his. It is kind of tough, it is frustrating sometimes, but that is the way it is."

Wisconsin's special teams have been frequently harangued the past two seasons as years of solid play from players such as Matt Davenport, Kevin Stemke, John Hall and Vitaly Pisetsky gave way to indecision and a palpable lack of confidence in the team's kickers and punters.

Indeed, after Saturday's game Alvarez said one area he remained concerned about was whether his team could find a dependable punter. Junior R.J. Morse averaged just 32.8 yards on three punt attempts Saturday, and redshirt freshman Adam Wozniak's three attempts averaged just 27.7.

But Alvarez lauded Allen and the improvement he has shown.

"I think his leg is stronger now," Alvarez said. "One thing that he has improved dramatically is the height on his kicks. If you remember as a freshman he had a lot of line drive kicks."

As a freshman, Allen missed two extra points and hit just six of nine field goals. He indeed had a difficult first year, though there were high points, such as a 50-yard field goal against Fresno State.

"I think it just came with some more kicking in off the ground," Allen said. "I think I am just used to it and you kick higher eventually. But my height has increased and that is one thing that I really needed to do after my freshman year so I worked on it a little bit."

In retrospect it should only seem natural that, having had a string of near-automatic kickers, Allen's growing pains would be magnified in Madison.

But looking back, it hardly seems fair. In two seasons, Allen is now 18-of-28 on field goals. His confidence and ability were much improved his sophomore season, culminating in the 37-yard game-winner at the Alamo Bowl.

A successful spring practice season now would appear to have Allen primed for a solid 2003 campaign. Allen, though, made clear that he feels there is work to be done, and little time to do it in.

"I'm pretty confident with everything that is going on," Allen said. "We are starting to get the timing down with the snapper and holder. Probably right now I am just starting to get the hang of things and hopefully everything will get down from here."

"It goes by quick. Wow. I've got two more years to concentrate on getting a lot better with my consistency."

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