It wasn’t comfortable, but Indiana started and finished strong in Bowling Green, Ky. to claim a 33-31 victory before a record setting crowd at Houchens Industries – LT Smith Stadium.
The Hoosiers jumped out to a fast 14-0 first quarter lead, but Western Kentucky’s up-tempo offense made things interesting. The Hilltoppers amassed 458 yards of offense for the game and outscored IU 24-12 over the second and third quarters. Indiana struggled to finish drives, settling for four Charles Campbell field goals during the middle two quarters.
But with the Hoosiers clinging to a 26-24 fourth quarter lead, they marched on an 86 yard touchdown drive while chewing up a precious 6:19 of the clock. WKU scored again late, but Indiana was able to run out the clock to move to 2-2 on the season.
“There’s only one stat that matters, and that’s we had more points then the other team does when the game’s over,” head coach Tom Allen said after the game. “And that’s exactly what we did. And that was a great team win.”
After early-season struggles, quarterback Michael Penix, Jr. was solid throughout the game. He completed 35-of-53 passes for 373 yards. He had no passing touchdowns or interceptions but scored on a sneak at the goal line in the first quarter. It was Penix’s fifth career 300-yard game. He completed passes to ten different receivers.
“He was awesome,” Allen said of Penix. “Timely throws, key third conversions, obviously none bigger than the final drive to Fryfogle to secure the win across the middle. He just made a ton of great throws all night long, extended some things with his legs when he had to. He just keeps getting better and better every single week.”
IU converted on 11-of-18 third downs which allowed them to produce seven drives of at least plays, all of which resulted in points. With 1:55 left in the game and IU facing 3rd-and-8, Penix found wideout Ty Fryfogle for a 10 yard gain over the middle to pick up a first down to seal the win.
Fryfogle led all receivers with 10 catches for 98 yards. Peyton Hendershot added six receptions for 94 yards.
Running back Stephen Carr had 25 rushes for 109 yards and two touchdowns.
“I thought our offensive line did a great job of opening some holes for him,” Allen said. “Stephen Carr ran really hard and protected the football.”
The teams combined for 965 yards, with the Hoosiers leading the way with 507.
Indiana scored touchdowns on its first two drives of the game, an 11-play 79-yard drive, and then an 11-play, 81 yard march to jump out to a two touchdown lead with 5:02 left in the opening stanza. Carr and Penix capped off each drive with one-yard runs.
The Hoosiers would actually score on their first six drives, but the last four were all by way of Campbell field goals, and that allowed WKU to keep things close. The Hilltoppers used a lightning-fast tempo to score a touchdown on their second drive of the game, and they proceeded to score points on four of five drives to pull to within two points on multiple occasions, including the 26-24 deficit in the fourth quarter.
WKU quarterback Bailey Zapp completed 31-of-44 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns with no interceptions.
“There are two kinds of offense you don’t ever want to play, it’s triple-option, and a team like this that goes super fast and throws the ball all over the park,” Allen said. “It makes it really challenging but guys have to step up. … I thought we got some timely stops. Didn’t get the takeaways we needed to get to win the game, but our guys bowed up and stopped them when they had to.”
GAME NUMBERS AND NOTES:
After being ejected for targeting last weekend against Cincinnati, linebacker Micah McFadden led IU with 12 tackles including eight solos, a tackle for loss and a sack. Devon Matthews appeared in his first game since week one and added eight tackles.
Several IU players left the game with injuries including D.J. Matthews, who did not return and was seen on crutches on the sideline. “Don’t know about D.J. for sure, but it’s his knee, but it doesn’t look good,” Allen said.
Indiana wore “AH” on their helmets for the late IU Athletics doctor Andy Hipskind.
The announced crowd of 25,171 was an all-time attendance record at Western Kentucky.
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