BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) — Stephen Carr had 109 yards rushing and two touchdowns, and Michael Penix Jr. passed for 373 yards to help Indiana beat Western Kentucky 33-31 on Saturdya night.
Penix completed a career-high 34 passes on 53 attempts. Ty Fryfogle had 10 receptions for 98 yards, including a 10-yard reception on third-and-8 with 1:55 to play that allowed the Hoosiers to run out the clock and escape with the victory.
Penix said he found a rhythm early and was able to continue it for most of the game, thanks to his trust in his reads of the Western Kentucky defense.
“It was just simple rhythm and making my reads,” Penix said. “It was just trusting my eyes and trusting my reads.”
Indiana, which had two touchdowns and four field goals on its first six possessions, never trailed.
Carr scored on a 1-yard touchdown to cap an 11-play, 79-yard opening drive and make it 7-0 with 10:15 left in the first quarter. Penix completed 5 of 6 passes for 51 yards in the drive.
Following a three-and-out by Western Kentucky, the Hoosiers went 81 yards in 11 plays and Penix scored on a quarterback sneak to push the lead to 14-0 about five minutes later.
Western Kentucky’s Bailey Zappe was 31-of-44 passing for 365 yards and three touchdowns.
The Hilltoppers (2-2) got on the scoreboard early in the second quarter as running back Adam Cofield scored from a yard out with 14:27 left in the half to cap a 15-play, 77-yard scoring drive that cut the Hoosiers lead to 14-7.
Western Kentucky hung in the game by forcing the Hoosiers to settle for field goals on four consecutive possessions and slowing them down in the second half by forcing two punts. It gave the Hilltoppers a chance, but it wasn’t enough.
“That’s a real good Indiana team," Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton said. “I thought defensively we needed to get some stops, and we did. Offensively, sometimes we scored really fast and did some good things, but it wasn’t good enough.”
Indiana’s first-half dominance on offense gave the Hoosiers just enough of a cushion to ward off a Western Kentucky comeback in the second half. By jumping to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter, the Hoosiers put themselves in position to control of the game. Indiana eventually put the game away on Penix’s 10th completion to Fryfogle for a 10-yard gain on third and-8 that allowed them to move the chains and run out the clock.
For Western Kentucky, it was an uphill battle for much of the game. Quarterback Bailey Zappe had an outstanding performance hitting 31 of 44 passes for 365 yards and three scores. However, the Hilltoppers falling into the early 14-0 deficit was one they could not overcome, as they never led in the game.
Indiana’s Charles Campbell left a 51-yard field goal attempt in the second quarter well short of the crossbar on a play where Western Kentucky had seemingly turned the hot Hoosiers offense away. But an offside penalty against the Hilltoppers gave Campbell a chance to redeem himself from five yards closer. Campbell drilled the 46-yarder through the uprights to give Indiana a 17-7 lead. Campbell added field goals of 37, 25 and 48 yards.
Indiana: The Hoosiers return to Big Ten Conference play at No. 6 Penn State on Saturday. Indiana beat the then-No. 8 Nittany Lions 36-35 in overtime in the 2020 season opener.
Western Kentucky: The Hilltoppers play their second straight Power 5 opponent when they take on No. 20 Michigan State on Saturday.
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