Because he spent eight years on the other side of the tracks, Kansas University football coach Terry Allen respects -- maybe even fears -- Cal State Northridge more than just about anybody.
When the NCAA Div. I-AA Matadors face the Div. I-A Jayhawks on Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Allen likely will look over at the CSN sideline with a bit of envy.
"I'd always rather be on the other side of it," Allen said. "Those Div. I-AA schools have everything to gain and nothing to lose, while the I-A guys have everything to lose and virtually nothing to gain."
Allen knows of what he speaks. He spent eight years as head coach at Div. I-AA Northern Iowa, and he routinely played schools from the big class.
Allen went 3-5 against Div. I-A teams while head coach at UNI, and his Panthers were outscored just 221-172, proving that even when they lost, they were at least competitive.
"When you're in a situation where you have everything to gain, that allows you to do things you normally wouldn't do," Allen said. "You can experiment, do crazy things that might create an opportunity for you to get a victory, things that probably wouldn't cause you to lose. Those games aren't a lot of fun for the I-A's."
Allen isn't alone in his wariness of the small-class Matadors. It's a program-wide concern, easy to ingrain since so many of Allen's assistants coached -- and even played -- at UNI.
"I remember as a player, you look at it as an opportunity to beat somebody who passed you over in recruiting," said KU linebackers coach Mark Farley, who went to Northern Iowa as a walk-on and recalled playing Kansas State -- a 10-6 UNI victory -- back in 1985. "I remember in all those games, as a player and a coach, that we always played well, but depth hurt you in the distance.
"You really had nothing to lose. If you win, everybody pats you on the back and tells you you had a good season. If you lose, you were supposed to lose. But if you win, you feel like you're the best team in I-AA."
Farley isn't alone in his views. KU quarterbacks coach Jay Johnson -- a former four-year letterman under Allen at UNI -- remembers his forays into the I-A ranks as tremendous opportunities for the underdogs.
"It really was a no-lose situation," said Johnson, who played in back-to-back losses to Iowa State and Oklahoma State as a sophomore in 1990 but had a hand in a 27-10 victory over Iowa State as a senior in '92. "You could go in and have fun with it. You didn't have to worry too much. It's scary from this end a little bit because of the situation and because we know Cal State has some talented players."
Johnson remembers the victory over ISU in 1992 helped catapult the Panthers to a 12-2 season.
"We had a lot of goals, and to beat them early in the season gave us a great springboard," Johnson said. "It did a lot for us as confidence goes. You're on the road in a I-A environment. Winning was huge for the program."
So how do the Jayhawks keep from helping propel the Matadors to greatness? The coaches agreed a quick start by Kansas was the key.
"From this side of the fence, we need to come out and use our size and speed that we have," Farley said. "You should have some dominance and you should have some depth."
"You have to do what we did last year," Allen added, referring to the Jayhawks' 63-21 rout of Illinois State. "You have to get on 'em early. If you let a I-AA team hang in there, watch out."
Kickoff for KU-CSN will be 6 p.m. Saturday.
Smith ailing again: KU offensive lineman Bob Smith, a 6-foot-4, 275-pounder sophomore from St. Louis, aggravated an old injury to his right knee and is contemplating season-ending corrective surgery. Smith suffered a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee last season and aggravated it in the preseason. He aggravated it again last week.
"We're looking very seriously at having surgery," Allen said. "That hasn't been determined yet, but it very easily could happen."
Smith is a backup to right tackle Justin Hartwig.
"(If Smith is out), that makes Hartwig go all the time," Allen said. "With Gabe Rosalis back, we think he's a pretty adequate backup."
Trainer: Tuesday's practice was halted about 10 minutes early because of lightning. The end couldn't come soon enough for Allen.
"It wasn't very good today," he said. "I think it's time to play again. We were very lethargic. It wasn't very crisp. We actually had a live scrimmage session, and it wasn't the crisp cracking of pads you look for. It really ticked me off."
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