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Man behind the mask

MU freshman Matt Allen didn't know dressing up in a pterodactyl costume would cause so much hype.
Saturday, February 28, 2009 | 8:10 p.m. CST; updated 11:32 p.m. CST, Saturday, February 28, 2009
MU freshman Matt Allen attracted attention at the MU basketball game against Kansas on Feb. 9 by dressing up as a pterodactyl. Allen took time on Saturday to show off the prehistoric costume made for him by his mother.

COLUMBIA – Kansas guard Mario Little stepped to the free-throw line.

Dressed as a black pterodactyl, the flying dinosaur, MU freshman Matt Allen rose up. The beast had a large head with a long pointy beak in front and a similar long spike stretching upward from the back of its head. It's eyes, positioned on the side of its head, were white with dark black centers.

Sunday's game

No. 11 Missouri (24-4, 11-2 Big 12)
at No. 15 Kansas (23-5, 12-1)

WHEN: 1 p.m.

WHERE: Allen Fieldhouse, Lawrence, Kan.

RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.5 FM

TV: KRCG/Channel 13


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The skin of its body was a black scaly, leathery fabric. On each side of its body hung a wing made of the same fabric. Allen's legs and khaki shorts protruded where talons might have been anticipated.

The pterodactyl flapped its wings and unleashed several high-pitched screeches that sent chills running down the backs of those around him. The shrill, piercing sound assaulted their ear drums.

"I just let it go," Allen said.

The noise starts with a low "R" sound deep in Allen's throat, progresses to a long, drawn out "A" sound that touches the highest note perceptible to human ears and finally descends into a lighter "W" that maintains its edge. The noise is a mosaic of annoying sounds, possessing components of a baby's wail, a crow's caw and the voice cracks of Screech from the TV show "Saved by the Bell."

"I don't even know how he does it. Just to make it that loud is amazing to me," said Tim Kelly, one of Allen's friends. "It's pretty unique. It seems like it would kind of hurt your vocal chords."

Students sitting near the beast behind the basket couldn't catch their breath, laughing.

Little made one of the two free throws.

"I saw the shooter look up at it while it was happening," Kelly said.

Matt Allen arrived at Mizzou Arena about four hours early along with his twin brother, Chris Allen, and a few friends to wait in line for the Tigers' showdown against rival Kansas. For most of the wait, the group discussed how embarrassed Allen would be during the game.

Once inside, Allen, an MU freshman from Jefferson City, removed the costume from a poncho he had used to keep it out of the rain. Ten minutes before the game began, he suited up.

Once in the costume, only Allen's eyes could be seen, peeking out from the dinosaur's neck.

Soon after, Allen danced in front of the student section in his costume, drawing cheers from the crowd.

"Everyone noticed I had it on, and was just kind of looking at me, so I started dancing," Allen said. "There was about two minutes of me just dancing in front of 15,000 people. That was probably one of the more embarrassing moments of my life."

Allen was grateful most of his face was covered.

He spent the game flapping his wings and trying to keep those around him enthusiastic, despite a 14-point deficit for Missouri at the half.

In the second half, Kansas switched to shooting at the basket facing the student section. It was Allen's time.

Whenever a Kansas player went to the foul line, Allen unleashed his "pterodactyl noise."

It's impossible to know if Allen's stunt really had any impact on the Jayhawks at the line.

But the facts should be placed on the record. Kansas shot four-for-four at the line in the first half. Facing Allen in the second half, Kansas shot eight-for-12. Kansas star Sherron Collins, an 81 percent free-throw shooter, shot one-for-four in the second half at the foul line.

"It was great for ESPN Big Monday for him to go out and show the nation what Zou Crew is all about," said Andrew Lorenz, a coordinator of the student cheering group. "I really like students coming out and trying to do something different."

After the game, Allen rushed the floor along with the rest of Zou Crew to celebrate Missouri's improbably comeback victory after Zaire Taylor's game-winning shot with one second remaining.

Some players embraced him on the floor, acknowledging his creativity with victorious primal screams of their own.

Allen didn't take the costume off until he was far from the arena, not wanting to reveal his identity.

In the following days, campus and the Internet buzzed with conversation about Allen and his suit, which appeared on ESPN several times during the game. People debated what type of animal or monster he was supposed to be.

"I can't even think of how many texts I got saying, 'I just saw you on ESPN,'" Allen said. "Probably the best parts are when people come up to me and are like, 'You see that pterodactyl kid?'"

 


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