After catching only one pass for nine yards in the first half, the junior wideout had the most productive second half of his college career.
Belcher’s five receptions for 112 yards in the second half helped the Hoosiers (4-2, 0-2) overcome a halftime deficit to defeat Arkansas State (2-5), 36-34, at Memorial Stadium during Homecoming weekend.
It was the second time in Belcher’s career that he had surpassed 100 yards receiving in a day. But never had Belcher accomplished the feat in one half.
The IU offense was struggling to muster up points throughout the first half. Each of the first two Hoosier drives ended with punts by junior punter Chris Hagerup.
Belcher’s deep routes were not being targeted in the beginning of the game.
“I think I missed some guys deep early,” senior quarterback Ben Chappell said. “We might have had a couple shots deep early, but some of the underneath stuff was there too.”
The IU offense got its first break of the day toward the end of the first quarter.
Senior safety Mitchell Evans picked off Arkansas State quarterback Ryan Aplin and took it to the Red Wolves’ 5-yard line.
But even with their shortest starting field position of the day, the Hoosiers could not get into the end zone and settled for a 20-yard field goal by redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald.
The second quarter did not end the IU offensive woes.
The Hoosiers were still held without a touchdown until the final minute of the first half.
Chappell capped off IU’s first touchdown drive of the day with a 7-yard pass to junior receiver Tandon Doss. After a failed two-point conversion attempt, the Hoosiers went into the locker room down 12-14.
“They challenged us, and it took us a little longer than we would have liked to get adjusted to it,” Chappell said. “But we did get a couple good shorts towards the end of the second quarter.”
But IU’s leading receiver was still not part of the mix. Belcher’s one catch for nine yards marked the first time this season that he had been held without multiple receptions in the first half.
The quiet first half did not faze the junior wideout.
“I knew that it was going to come because of the game plan,” Belcher said. “We were going to take all of the quick stuff, and when we take out shots downfield, we were going to have to hit them.”
Chappell hit those shots in the second half.
On IU’s first passing play in the third quarter, Chappell connected with Belcher for 23 yards, but another IU drive stalled before they could get into Arkansas State territory.
A three-and-out by the Red Wolves’ offense set the Hoosiers up at their own 42-yard line.
On second-and-13, Chappell completed a pass to Belcher on a quick 4-yard pass. Belcher did not have any of his momentum going downfield and was surrounded by several white jerseys.
It was Belcher’s turn to flex his muscles.
He bounced off two Arkansas State defenders, and a third one brought him down by the facemask, forcing a 15-yard penalty and an automatic Hoosier first down.
IU capitalized on the Red Wolves’ inability to take down the 210-pound Belcher with a 27-yard touchdown pass to senior receiver Terrance Turner.
However, the Red Wolves repeatedly cut into IU’s lead.
With just more than eight minutes to play, Aplin completed a 5-yard touchdown pass to receiver Dwayne Frampton to trim the IU lead to 29-27.
Chappell did not waste any time responding.
On the first play of the drive, Chappell found Belcher wide open up the right sideline for a 65-yard touchdown. The play was one that Belcher had been setting up all day.
“They started to sit on (quick passes) later in the game, so we figured we would surprise them with a double move,” Belcher said. “That worked, and we got the touchdown out of it.”
Belcher’s adjustment to Arkansas State’s single coverage marked the longest touchdown of his career. The touchdown cemented Belcher’s 112-yard second half and secured an IU win that was about sticking to the offensive game plan after a slow start.
“As a receiver, you like a challenge,” Belcher said. “We figured if we beat them off of the line, they wouldn’t be able to catch up and we could make big plays.”
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