BOZICH | Indiana beats Western Kentucky, 38-35, with defense; Yes, defense
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (WDRB) – At halftime all the old Indiana football cheap shots were raging on Twitter.
Terrible tackling. Costly turnovers. Bend and break pass defense. Terrible tackling. Extra-soft pass coverage. The works. The Hoosiers trailed Western Kentucky, 28-17, at Memorial Stadium.
Then a funny thing happened in the second half. The Hoosiers tackled. And created turnovers. And controlled the football. And they stormed back to beat the Hilltoppers, 38-35, moving to 3-0 for the first time since 2010. They’re also halfway to bowl eligibility.
“It’s good to be 3-0,” IU coach Kevin Wilson said. "I think somebody had them (WKU) ranked in the Top 30 in one of those magical polls."
GOT THE JOB DONE: The Indiana offensive line. Both teams passed the ball for more than 350 yards. But the Hoosiers ran for 284 yards while WKU gained only 84. They created lanes for IU halfback Jordan Howard to gain 203 yards.
When Indiana needed to kill the clock over the last six minutes, the Hoosiers were able to deliver, grinding to five first downs while closing out the game by moving the ball to the WKU 2.
One Western Kentucky assistant coach said the Indiana offensive line is the best one the Hilltoppers will face all season – and WKU travels to Louisiana State in October.
DIDN’T GET THE JOB DONE: WKU’s special teams. Indiana scored in the first 2 ½ minutes of the game on a 91-yard punt return by Mitchell Paige. The Hilltoppers also had a field goal blocked.
Factor in this stat: WKU had zero yards on kickoff returns because Indiana’s kicker Griffin Oakes put every kick deep into the end zone. Western managed six yards on punt returns. Special teams play tilted toward IU.
TURNING POINT: Jonathan Crawford, a true freshman from Largo, Fla., provided not one, but two for Indiana.
After the Hoosiers cut WKU’s lead to 28-24 early in the third quarter, Crawford intercepted an underthrown pass by WKU quarterback Brandon Doughty at the IU 3-yard line.
Crawford was not finished. On WKU’s next possession, Crawford jumped a route and intercepted another pass near the Hilltoppers’ sideline. That led to IU’s third touchdown of the third quarter and bumped the Hoosiers ahead, 38-28.
“It’s a better defensive crowd,” Wilson said.
“We just had two costly interceptions,” WKU coach Jeff Brohm said. “They ran the ball at will and controlled the clock, so we didn’t get many possessions.”
SURPRISE, SURPRISE: Indiana’s defense limited Western to seven points in the second half, shutting the Hilltoppers out in the third quarter.
It was the third consecutive game coordinator Brian Knorr’s defense has played well in the third quarter. IU has outscored Southern Illinois, Florida International and WKU 44-0 in the third quarter.
“I’d like to tell you it’s something magical (said at halftime),” Wilson said. “We don’t yell. I like to say it’s something earth-shattering. It isn’t.”
WDRB PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jordan Howard, Indiana running back.
For the third consecutive game, Howard was a force. Although he did not score a touchdown, Howard ran for 203 yards, extending IU drives and keeping the WKU offense off the field.
“They have a good runner and a good offensive line,” Brohm said.
STAT OF THE GAME: Two, as in the two interceptions that Doughty threw in the third quarter.
Doughty was the more prolific quarterback, passing for 484 yards and three touchdowns. But Indiana’s Nate Sudfeld was the more efficient quarterback. He completed 20 of 27 throws for three touchdowns and 355 yards – and did not throw an interception.
WHAT WE LEARNED: Indiana is the more balanced offensive attack. The Hoosiers finished with 639 yards of total offense, 355 passing and 284 rushing. Western was outstanding throwing the ball, but the Hilltoppers struggled to run the ball without the injured Leon Allen and Ace Wales. D’Andre Ferby, their replacement, gained 58 of the 84 yards WKU produced running the football. They averaged only 3.2 yards per rush.
NOW WHAT? Western returns home to play Miami (Ohio) Saturday at 3:30 p.m. The Redhawks slipped to 1-2 after losing to Cincinnati Saturday. After that WKU travels to Houston to play Rice.
Indiana plays its first road game at Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons moved to 2-1 Saturday by winning at Army, 17-14. IU returns home to open Big Ten play against defending national champion Ohio State.
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