Hoosiers rally late to fend off Hilltoppers 33-30 in OT
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Late comebacks are quickly becoming old hat for the Indiana Hoosiers.
They’ll certainly take it.
Connor Bazelak threw a touchdown pass and completed a 2-point conversion pass with 47 seconds left in regulation Saturday and Charles Campbell made a 51-yard field goal in overtime to give the Hoosiers a 33-30 victory over Western Kentucky.
It’s the third straight second-half comeback for Indiana (3-0), which has already surpassed last season’s victory total.
“I’ll say this — there is a plan to keep the fans in the stands and if it comes down to the final play, they’ve got to stay, right?,” coach Tom Allen joked after tearing off his headset and sprinting onto the field to celebrate. “What do I remember (about the kick)? I remember that he crushed it and it was going to be good from about 60.”
Getting there, though, took everything Indiana could muster — a 17-point fourth quarter, a late goal-line stand, a missed field goal by Western Kentucky as time expired and a blocked field goal in overtime just to set up Campbell’s winning kick.
For the Hilltoppers (2-1), it was another disheartening chapter in this series.
They fell to 0-5 all-time against the Hoosiers and have lost the last three by a total of eight points. They’re also 0-9 against Big Ten foes since joining the FBS in 2007.
It looked like those losing streaks would end for most of the game. But the Hoosiers refused to go down without a fight and eventually won.
“Offensively, we had some drives stall out and the penalties and turnovers hurt us down the stretch,” Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton said. “We’ve got to play better to win. At the end of the day, we didn’t win so we’ve got to play better.”
Austin Reed threw two touchdown passes and ran for another as the Hilltoppers led 24-13 after three quarters.
But Josh Henderson’s 19-yard TD run early in the fourth quarter cut the deficit to five and ignited Indiana’s comeback.
After exchanging field goals, Bazelak hooked up with Cam Camper on a 4-yard TD pass before finding converted quarterback Donaven McCulley on the ensuing conversion to tie the score at 30.
Brayden Narveson pushed the potential winning kick wide right then had the next one blocked and nearly returned for a score to win it before Campbell closed it out.
“I told (Bryant) Fitzgerald ’If you had lateralled it to me, I would have scored. I thought he might go the distance and get us the win,” Allen said. “But when the team needed (Campbell) today and when it needed him the most, he came through.”
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers have been a dangerous team for years and were on the cusp of a signature victory. Yes, it hurts and, no, it wasn’t pretty. But they’re a legitimate Conference USA contender.
Indiana: So the Hoosiers have been saving their best ball for late-game heroics but at least they’re still unbeaten. The next job is figuring out how to start faster and avoid some of the stressful finishes.
Even before the final, frenzied flurry, it was a strange game.
Indiana’s starting center, Zach Carpenter, sat out after getting hurt in pregame warmups. Western Kentucky starting safety Kaleb Oliver drew a targeting call on Indiana’s fifth play — a call that was reversed on a replay review.
And at the end of the first half, Indiana receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. and Western Kentucky defensive backs Kahlef Hailassie and Talique Allen ran into the goal post chasing Bazelak’s overthrown pass.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers had 545 total yards as Reed went 33 of 43 with 329 yards, two scores and one interception. ... Kye Robichaux had 14 carries for 135 yards. ... Daewood Davis had five catches for 77 yards including a 44-yard TD while Malachi Corley had eight catches for 77 yards.
Indiana: Bazelak went 33 of 55 with 364 yards and two scores to help the Hoosiers finish with 484 total yards. ... Camper caught eight passes for 93 yards. ... Henderson had 11 carries for 65 yards and Shaun Shivers ran 15 times for 58 yards.
Western Kentucky: Hosts Florida International next Saturday..
Indiana: Makes its first road trip next Saturday at Cincinnati