Late Defensive Stop Saves Hoosiers, 23-19

Bloomington - For the second straight week, an Indiana opponent drove inside the 10-yard line late on a potential game-winning drive. And for the second straight week, IU's defense forced a fumble the win. This time it was Western Michigan, which fell to IU 23-19 Saturday afternoon...

Bloomington – Greg Middleton might have saved Indiana's football season Saturday.

With less than two minutes remaining and Western Michigan driving for a potential game-winning touchdown, Middleton sliced into the Bronco backfield and separated tailback Aaron Winchester from the ball at the IU 8-yard line. Justin Carrington recovered the fumble and Indiana managed to hold on in the final seconds for a 23-19 win in front of 35,162 fans at Memorial Stadium.

Indiana improved to 2-0 heading into next weekend's road trip to Akron, while Western Michigan fell to a Big Ten team for the second straight week to slip to 0-2.

It marked the second straight week that a late defensive stand preserved the win. Last week it was Ray Fisher that forced a fourth-quarter Eastern Kentucky fumble in IU's 19-13 win, and this time around it was Middleton's chance to be the defensive hero.

It was also the second straight game that went down to the game's final seconds. Indiana took over with 1:20 remaining following Carrington's fumble recovery, but was unable to put the game away with a first down. Facing a fourth down and leading by six with 0:30 remaining, punter Chris Hagerup intentionally stepped out of the back of the end zone for safety to narrow the lead to four, 23-19.

On the ensuing free kick, Tyler Replogle made a potential game-saving play of his own when he tripped up Brandon West from behind with a wide open field in front of him. Then, after a 15-yard Tim Hiller completion gave Western Michigan the ball at the IU 45-yard line with time for one final play, another Hiller completion followed by four laterals ended inside the IU 30-yard line with an illegal forward pass to end the game.

"I was thinking someone is going to jump in the end zone and the band is going to be down there," said IU Coach Bill Lynch, referring to Cal's last-second win over Stanford in 1982.

"We told our guys all week this game was going to the last play of the game – you have to prepare to play until the last play of the game."

When the Memorial Stadium clock hit zero the entire Indiana sideline erupted, celebrating a win they absolutely had to have. Indiana now heads into next weekend's game at Akron with a chance to improve to 3-0 for just the third time in the last 15 years.

While Demetrius McCray ran for a career-high 134 yards on 17 carries (including a 59-yard touchdown) and Ben Chappell completed 18-of-28 throws for 185 yards, it was the Hoosiers' defensive effort that carried the day Saturday afternoon.

Indiana held Western Michigan to just 288 total yards, including 22 rushing yards on 22 carries. While Hiller threw for 266 yards (including 187 yards in the second half), the Hoosier defense largely avoided giving up the big play and came up with stops at critical times.

"I think the biggest thing was the defense they just kept playing – they didn't quit," Lynch said.

Early on, it didn't appear that Indiana would need any sort of late-game heroics. With the exception of an 11-play, 74-yard Western Michigan touchdown drive in the second quarter, Indiana dominated the opening 30 minutes.

Indiana marched 76 yards on its opening drive to set up a 21-yard Nick Freeland field goal, and then followed that up with a methodical 11-plus 73-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a one-yard Chappell run to go up 10-0.

After the Broncos' TD drive cut the lead to seven midway through the second quarter, McCray had an answer. The senior tailback followed Will Matte and Justin Pagan around left end, and after Pagan kicked out a would-be tackler McCray raced 59 yards for a touchdown that extended the lead to 17-7 heading into halftime.

The Hoosiers out-gained the Broncos 248-96 in the opening half and held Hiller to only 79 yards passing on 9-of-17 passing. Running back Brandon West – who amassed more than 300 yards of all-purpose yards against IU two years ago – was a non-factor in the opening half and finished the game with only 36 rushing yards and 26 receiving yards.

But things tightened up in the second half. Hiller hooked up with Robert Arnheim for a 41-yard touchdown on the half's opening drive to cut the lead to 17-14. Freeland extended the lead to six when he bounced in a 32-yard field goal off the right upright midway through the third quarter, but Western Michigan kicker John Potter narrowed it back to three with a 35-yarder with 12:05 left.

Freeland answered with a 38-yard field goal to push the lead back to six with 9:10 remaining, and Indiana's defense forced the Broncos into a three-and-out and a fourth down punt on the ensuing drive. Broncos' long snapper Tom Harrington proceeded to uncork a low and misdirected snap, which IU's Jerimy Finch recovered at the WMU 14-yard line.

The Hoosiers' offense, though, was unable to come away with a game-clinching score. McCray was stopped for no gain on a 3rd and 1 at the Broncos' five-yard line, and Aaron Pritchard blocked a 22-yard Freeland field goal attempt to keep the margin at six.

Western Michigan then marched 85 yards in 14 plays to the IU five-yard line before Middleton's game-saving play.

"It was a great win because it was an effort win, and those are the ones you can build on," Lynch said.


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