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A Mixed Legacy
Christian Stone
November 25, 1996
How Holtz measures up, The hurrying Husky, Signal calling at Air Force and 'Bama, Pokey Allen's return
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November 25, 1996

A Mixed Legacy

How Holtz measures up, The hurrying Husky, Signal calling at Air Force and 'Bama, Pokey Allen's return

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Alabama has finished in the top 10 in total defense four of the past five years and is ranked fifth this season. However, since the departure of Jay Barker two years ago, the quarterback position has been the bane of the Tide's attack. Coach Gene Stallings has stuck with his conservative power offense, but with even lower-rung SEC programs like Kentucky (with Tim Couch) and South Carolina (with Anthony Wright) having gobbled up some of the South's top schoolboy quarterbacks, he may have to take dramatic action to turn the Tide: Open up the attack so 'Bama will be more attractive to blue-chip passers.

Back in the Saddle

Last Saturday, Boise State's Pokey Allen finally coached his first Division I-A football game, something people in Idaho feared he might never be healthy enough to do.

Allen took over at Boise State in 1993 and the next season led the Broncos to the Division I-AA national championship game, and a 13-2 record. Three days after Boise State's 28-14 loss to Youngstown State in the title game, Allen learned that a lump in his right triceps was malignant. He underwent surgery, followed that with radiation treatment and had a stem-cell transplant. By Christmas the cancer was in remission.

In August, however, as Boise State was preparing for its first season as a Division I-A school, Allen learned that he had an egg-sized malignant tumor on his chest and several cancerous lesions on his lungs. He took a medical leave of absence on the first day of practice, underwent surgery to remove the tumor and lesions, then moved to Vancouver for alternative treatment not available in the U.S. His days consisted of five-hour intravenous hydrogen peroxide treatments, injections, massive doses of pills and strictly vegetarian meals.

Allen was sorely missed in Boise, where he had been an inspiration, often urging his players to "stud up." Dig deep. He kept in touch with his team through daily phone calls to interim coach Tom Mason and by viewing videotapes of the Broncos' games. In his absence the players erected a wooden sign that read STUD UP POKEY ALLEN '96 over a door of the Varsity Center. Every day they would touch the sign on their way to the practice field.

On Nov. 8, after learning that the tumor on his chest was free of cancer cells and the spot on his lung was stable, Allen called Boise State officials and told them he was coming home. Two days later he flew into town. He attended his first practice the next day and on Saturday guided his 1-9 team to a thrilling 33-32 victory at New Mexico State on the strength of a 22-yard touchdown pass with 14 seconds to play. "I was a little emotional when I walked on the field," Allen said after the game. "Then I felt like I was never gone."

The team celebrated its victory against the Aggies but stopped short of dousing the coach with Gatorade. "We were kind of afraid to touch him," explained senior quarterback Tony Hilde. "He's a little fragile."

[This article contains a table. Please see hardcopy of magazine or PDF.]

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