Mike Allen could have be forgiven if he had hung his head a bit after missing an extra point in Wisconsin's game at Arizona three weekends ago. At that point he had made just 2 of 5 field goal attempts all season and the missed conversion left the Badgers trailing 7-6.
Only Allen did not lose his self-assurance; not in the least. Immediately after the kick, Allen showed more emotion than perhaps at any time since kicking a game-winner at the Alamo Bowl two years ago. This time, of course, he was responding to a negative feeling. That emotion, though, quickly subsided and the confident, almost brash, senior kicker returned, his psyche intact.
"That's something that I've learned a lot from the D-backs—Scott Starks, Jimmy Leonhard and Rob Brooks—they've all been like, ‘You know, you miss something, you screw up on a play, forget it, that thing is over,'" Allen said following the Arizona game. "And that's what I did."
Allen has been perfect since the missed extra point. He made a 23-yard field goal to win the Arizona game, then made kicks from 39, 38 and 26 yards out in the Big Ten opener with Penn State. He made his fifth straight, and the second longest of his career, when he drilled a 48-yarder against the wind in the Badgers' 24-7 win over Illinois Saturday.
"I knew I had to lower the trajectory a little bit and just kick the hell out of it," Allen said Saturday.
The kick was a surprise to most everyone in Camp Randall Stadium Saturday. Allen has struggled from 40 yards out and further in his career (he is now 8-for-18 in his career from that distance) and Wisconsin tends to either go for it or punt when the field goal attempt is beyond 40. In pregame warm-ups, Allen left short attempts from 45 yards away.
"There was definitely hesitation," Allen said. "Coach (Barry) Alvarez and I talked about it, in fact he asked me and I said, ‘I don't know.' I don't [mess] around with coaches. I tell them how it is, I'm a realist, I tell them exactly what it is. I talked to him before the game, I said, ‘I'm not going to be able to nail anything longer than 45 with this wind.' He gave me the opportunity. Thank God he did. That's just the way he thinks."
Indeed, Alvarez, the rest of Wisconsin's coaches and Allen's teammates maintained confidence in him through his early season struggles. More importantly, Allen has always retained confidence in himself.
"Mike definitely doesn't need any confidence boosters from anyone else," said punter Ken DeBauche, who is also Allen's holder, prior to the Penn State game. "I think he's very strong minded and strong willed and knows what he's doing when he's out there."
"Coach Alvarez and all the other coaches have an extreme amount of confidence in me," Allen said. "That's huge. When you have people believing in you that is only going to make you that much stronger of a kicker."
Allen made 2 of 3 kicks in Wisconsin's season-opener, then missed from 23 and 49 versus UNLV. However, he said he did not make any adjustments following those outings.
"You miss them sometimes and unfortunately the first couple games I missed a few," he said. "I'm going to be optimistic but unfortunately I might miss a couple here or there in upcoming games. Hopefully I won't, I don't believe I will, but things like that happen.
"The first couple games, I missed them. I didn't change anything… I just need to follow through every time. Those ones that I missed obviously I did something wrong. It wasn't that I changed anything I just didn't execute on the things I needed to get done."
The snap, hold and kick were all a bit off kilter in Tucson.
"If that would happen again, if I would bobble the snap, I think Mike knows now that he can still make the kick," DeBauche said. "He doesn't have to go as fast and he can still make the kick."
DeBauche was prescient when discussing Allen two weeks ago.
"He's going to go out there and make some huge kicks for us," DeBauche said. "I think he's going to be great for the rest of the season. This is a little freak thing that he's going through here and me bobbling that extra-point snap really didn't help his case at all. I think Mike's going to do great."
Great remains to be seen but Allen has given every indication the past two weeks that he is putting it together in his final run through the Big Ten.
"I know I can make those field goals," Allen said, regarding the 40-plus-yard attempts. "I know I can make them any time, any day, but, you know, statistically I haven't been able to. If you are able to make those long ones in games like this that's a big deal.
"It helps your confidence, not that I need any help because I'm going to be confident no matter what. To have those kicks only can make you that much stronger."
One confident kicker
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