Jan 2, 2021; Glendale, AZ, USA; Oregon Ducks safety Nick Pickett (6) and Oregon Ducks linebacker Nick Wiebe (43) tackle Iowa State Cyclones tight end Chase Allen (11) during the first half of the Fiesta Bowl at State Farm Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Iowa State’s players finally settled on five core values heading into the 2021 football season.
One stood out — both personally and collectively — for sixth-year senior tight end Chase Allen.
“One of the ones that everyone agreed on was resiliency,” said Allen, who hopes to help the Cyclones (2-2, 0-1 Big 12) subdue Kansas (1-3, 0-1) in Saturday’s 6 p.m. matchup (FS1) at Jack Trice Stadium. “That’s just one that I personally identify with. I was raised to believe that, my dad being a football coach. You don’t win every game and you’ve gotta just bounce back and be the same guy every day, win or lose. My dad taught me that from a very young age. Just hope to carry that lesson and make less mistakes and learn from them. As long as you don’t make the same mistake twice, you should be all right.”
Allen is ISU’s oracle of wisdom and hard-won perspective. He was hit by a car as a freshman. Then he had mono. Various bumps and bruises have plagued him throughout his Cyclone career, but one quality has always kept him grinding — the one he talked about above.
Allen just keeps getting better. One way or another. No excuses, no gray areas.
“Our ‘A’ players have to get As,” ISU head coach Matt Campbell said. “We’ve always identified Chase Allen as an ‘A’ player. If you look at just the offensive grades over the first four weeks, what’s been so impressive is Chase Allen has had an elite start to the season. Chase has played outstanding, he’s blocked as good as he’s ever blocked in his career, which I think is a product of him being the most healthy he’s ever been.
“He had a full offseason, a great January, February, March, April, May, June and he didn’t get dinged up in July and August. I think health has been a huge part of why he’s played to what that ‘A’ status looks like. For that guy to grade out to well over 90 percent in every game so far this season, and now to get some production. He’s as trusted as any player in our program. Chase is off to a great start and has really been one of the guys to get things going over the last couple of weeks. I think the offense is really starting to rise fast and I think a lot of the credit goes to his leadership and certainly what he’s been able to do.”
Allen played in his 50th game as a Cyclone last Saturday at Baylor — and compiled the biggest numbers of his career. The 6-7, 250-pounder notched single-game career highs in catches (7) and receiving yards (98) while continuing to serve as a key blocker for Breece Hall. He knows that’s his primary role — blocking for Hall and helping protect quarterback Brock Purdy — and relishes playing it.
“It was nice,” Allen said of his relative explosion in the passing game. “I’m a guy that I never make things about me, so just being available, where I need to be — I was just happy to do my job.”
His long-running approach has established the drumbeat for growth in ISU’s program. In 2016, the Cyclones were about to complete a fourth straight season with three wins or fewer. One of those wins — a tense 31-24 triumph over Kansas — helped separate ISU slightly from the Jayhawks. Since 2017, that separation has turned into a chasm, but Allen is savvy enough to know that won’t always be the case.
“They’re really coming along and that coach (Lance Leipold) is really going to take that (team) to places it hasn’t been recently,” Allen said of Kansas. “It reminds me a lot of coach Campbell whenever we first got here. That’s what that team kind of looks like, like the 2016 Cyclones.”
ISU must keep the Jayhawks mired in that mode on Saturday and history suggests the Cyclones will do just that. Kansas has won just one of the past 11 meetings and ISU has dropped back-to-back Big 12 games just one time in the last three-plus seasons.
“We respond well to a loss,” Allen said. “We didn’t play very well against Iowa and then we played pretty well against UNLV. We always have a really good response. I have no question that this team is going to respond this week after the things that happened last week. It’s just gonna be a matter of continuing that momentum and carrying it on.”
In a word, the Cyclones are resilient. That’s what’s helped them rise near the top of the league as Kansas — for now, at least — still languishes at the bottom. That’s what’s fueled Allen leading into this final season, which is allowing him to glimpse pieces of his past, present, and maybe even future.
Allen was born when his dad, Terry, was in his first year as Kansas’s head coach. Six years later, Terry Allen was an assistant to Dan McCarney in Ames — and before all of that he’d sparked sustained success at his alma mater, Northern Iowa.
So resiliency resonates with the Allens. It’s how they’re built. It’s why they always respond. It’s not simply a core concept. It’s reality.
“(Kansas is) always a special game for me,” Allen said. “I used to cheer on the Jayhawks when I was very young. I was really young because I also used to cheer on the Cyclones, too, so it’s very cool just looking back at perspective. It’s kind of hard to appreciate it in the moment because you’re just trying to win the game, but I’m sure down the road I’ll be pretty fond of the memories.”
Until then, look for Allen blocking lead defenders. Until then, watch him continue to carve out pockets of success in the passing game. Until then, notice as resiliency meets the moment — one game at a time.
“Chase Allen is an incredible young man,” ISU offensive coordinator Tom Manning said. “It’s really amazing how much he has improved every single year and really, right now, he’s playing hands down the best football that he’s played here — and he has played really good football here. I think what has allowed Chase to have some success here in terms of the passing game is Chase can do everything that’s required of a tight end, meaning that he has the ability to block inline. He can line up on the perimeter and block successfully. He can line up as an H-back or whatever you want to call it and do all those things. And when you can do that, it gives you opportunities in the passing game in terms of play-action faking and those kinds of things. So I think his ability to do everything, to be a trustworthy guy, to be probably one of the bell cows of our team, but particularly our offense, I think that’s certainly why Chase is doing really well.”