Chappell, Hoosiers Find A Way To Win

Bloomington - Indiana discovered what it needed to turn around its fortunes Saturday afternoon - turnovers. The Hoosiers forced Northwestern into five turnovers – including a pair of interceptions by Austin Thomas – to key their 21-19 Homecoming win over Northwestern...

Bloomington - Indiana discovered what it needed to turn around its fortunes Saturday afternoon.

Turnovers.

The Hoosiers forced Northwestern into five turnovers – including a pair of interceptions by Austin Thomas – to key their 21-19 Homecoming win over Northwestern. Indiana ended its five-game losing streak and improved to 3-5 overall and 1-4 in the Big Ten, while the 22nd-ranked Wildcats slipped to 6-2 and 2-2.

In addition to Thomas' two interceptions, IU also recovered three fumbles, including one by Chris Adkins in the game's final minute that secured the win.

"When we were struggling we were turning it over and we weren't creating any turnovers, and that was the difference today," said Lynch, whose team had been a minus nine in turnovers during its five-game losing streak. "The defense did a great job or forcing fumbles and getting the interceptions."

Indiana's offense was without quarterback Kellen Lewis for a second straight game due to a high ankle sprain, but Ben Chappell and a trio of young wide receivers keyed an IU passing attack that piled up 247 yards and two touchdowns.

Chappell completed 21-of-34 throws for 219 yards and a touchdown, while true freshmen wideouts Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher combined for 14 catches for 189 yards and a pair of TDs. While the IU offense showed some much needed life Saturday, it was ultimately the defense that came away with the three defensive stops in the fourth quarter to preserve the two-point win.

On Northwestern's opening drive of the quarter, IU linebacker Justin Carrington stopped Omar Conteh for no gain on a 3rd-and-1 that forced a Wildcat punt. After Austin Starr missed a 51-yard field goal on IU's ensuing drive, Thomas came away with his second pick of the game to bring a halt to another Northwestern drive that had reached IU territory.

The final defensive stand came in the closing two minutes. With Northwestern back-up quarterback Mike Kafka replacing an injured C.J. Bacher on the final drive, Jammie Kirlew sacked Kafka on the drive's second play and forced a 24-yard loss after Kafka fumbled the ball out of bounds to the Northwestern 5. On 3rd and 24, Greg Middleton chased down Kafka from behind and forced Northwestern's fifth and final turnover, which Chris Adkins fell on to secure IU's first conference win.

It was a huge turnaround for the IU defense, which had given up 83 points and nearly 900 yards in its last six quarters of action. But against Northwestern, IU surrendered only 316 yards of offense and limited Bacher to only 155 yards passing before he had to leave late with what appeared to be a hamstring injury. Wildcat tailback Tyrell Sutton, meanwhile, was held to 77 yards on 27 carries before he left with an injury.

Offensively, Indiana did little running the ball, but it got a huge lift from a trio of young wideouts in Doss, Belcher and Mitchell Evans. The 6'6" Belcher caught six passes for 82 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown in the first quarter that put IU up 7-3. Doss, meanwhile, made his return to the field from a knee injury and caught eight passes for 107 yards and a score. Doss' touchdown came on a trick play, as sophomore Mitchell Evans took a double reverse and lofted a 28-yard touchdown.

The special teams, meanwhile, also had a big hand in the win as well. Punter Chris Hagerup had one of the day's biggest plays in the first quarter when he turned an errant snap on a 4th-and-6 into a 17-yard run. Hagerup fielded the bad snap and decided to run to avoid a potential blocked punt by Conteh. Hagerup shed a tackle by Jeff Yarborough and earned IU a first down. Chappell hooked up with Belcher for the 43-yard touchdown on the very next play to give IU a 7-3 lead.

"A head's up player – that's what that was," Lynch said. "That was not by design. The snap pulled him off and that's where a kid has to make a judgment whether he can get it off. He made a decision and he went full speed…it seemed he had a sense where the first down marker was and he got it."

Hagerup's play got Indiana going, and ultimately every facet played a big role in a very satisfying win for Lynch and his team.

"I couldn't be happier for those guys in the locker room," Lynch said. "They've been through a lot in the last five weeks. It hasn't been easy. But like I've said over, they haven't quit, they keep fighting."

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