Indiana football: 3 things to like, 3 things not to like following the OT win
Indiana continues to prove it’s a second-half team.
And that was good enough again on Saturday, when the Hoosiers rallied past Western Kentucky 33-30 on Charles Campbell’s 51-yard field goal in overtime. IU had trailed 30-22 before Connor Bazelak led a 75-yard drive in less than 3 minutes to tie the game, with the 2-point conversion, with 47 seconds to go.
Indiana has started the season 3-0 with 3 comeback victories, doing so largely by playing solid second-half football. Let’s take a look at 3 things to like and 3 not to like about the victory.
3 to like
When Indiana was at the brink of defeat Saturday, the Hoosiers got big plays from all 3 phases, with the defense holding Western Kentucky to a field goal (and keeping IU within a score), the offense rallying for a touchdown and a conversion, then special teams getting a FG block and a long FG in overtime to take the victory.
The Hoosiers gave themselves a chance for the walk-off win when Jaylin Williams zipped around the left side of the line, diving to get his mitt on the WKU attempt. It set up Campbell, one of the better kickers in the Big Ten who had experienced a rough game a week before, for the game-winner, and the senior came through.
But IU only got to that point because of big plays by the defense and offense. Trailing 27-22, Indiana earned a goal-line stop to hold the Hilltoppers to a field goal when linebacker Aaron Casey pulled down a ball-carrier at the 6, 2 yards short of a 1st down. The field goal kept Indiana within striking distance.
And IU struck. Less than 3 minutes later, Bazelak hit Cam Camper with a 4-yard touchdown, then found Donaven McCulley in the back of the end zone for the extra 2 points.
During his first 3 games in Bloomington, Bazelak has proven that he can rise to the occasion when the moment comes.
On Saturday, he did so again, leading the Hoosiers on a 9-play, 75-yard drive starting with 3:46 left in the game. His team trailed 30-22.
IU started with 3 straight running plays, then caught WKU twice with penalties on passing plays, moving the ball to the opponent’s 39. Bazelak hit 3 of his next 5 passes, the last being the touchdown to Camper. Then, after a series of timeouts, 1 by IU followed by 2 by WKU, Bazelak located McCulley streaking across the back of the end zone for the conversion.
Bazelak’s 4th-quarter numbers aren’t particularly eye-popping — 6-of-13 for 58 yards and the score — but he hit when he needed to hit. For the game, the Missouri transfer was 33-of-55 for 364 yards and 2 touchdowns.
Bazelak spread the wealth on offense, completing passes to 12 receivers.
The distribution helped the Hoosiers to 484 yards of offense.
Perhaps the best part of Indiana’s passing offense was Bazelak’s ability to put the ball where his receivers could then work after the reception. In all, IU had 183 yards after the catch. Camper led the receivers with 8 receptions for 93 yards (26 after the catch) and the score.
3 not to like
Messy first half
Again Indiana played a disjointed first half, which has become a theme for the Hoosiers this season, albeit a less important one considering their second-half comebacks.
But IU trailed 17-10 at halftime to the Hilltoppers — it was down 10-0 to Idaho last week — because of missed opportunities and a defense that gave up a big play or 2 too many. In the first half, the Hoosiers gambled on a midfield 4th down and failed when Shaun Shivers was nuked for a 2-yard loss. Moments later, WKU took a 7-3 lead on a 26-yard passing TD.
Later, Western Kentucky scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass.
A drive halfway through the 2nd quarter died when the Hoosiers fumbled at the Hilltoppers’ 11-yard-line, negating a chance to retake the lead.
Indiana had chances to put Western Kentucky behind earlier.
There was the 2nd-quarter fumble, when Shivers didn’t grab a lateral from Bazelak, then couldn’t land on the loose ball before a Hilltopper. A promising drive at the end of the 1st half stalled out because Bazelak was sacked on 2nd down, pushing Indiana out of field goal range.
Indiana kicked 4 field goals, with the 3 in regulation showing an inability to finish drives with touchdowns.
The Hoosiers collected a couple turnovers, but scored only 9 points off them.
Maybe this doesn’t matter right now — after all, the Hoosiers got the win — but the offensive line continues to be a big question mark.
Indiana rushed for 120 yards against the smaller Hilltoppers’ defensive front, when the goal was 150, and gained only 3.4 yards per attempt. And the line allowed Bazelak to be sacked 3 times.
What will that mean next week at Cincinnati or once Big Ten play resumes?