Indiana seniors linebacker Micah McFadden and defensive back Devon Matthews combined for 20 tackles, just under a third of the team’s total, in a 33-31 win against Western Kentucky University on Saturday night in Bowling Green, Kentucky.
Indiana was without the two defensive starters when it allowed 28 second-half points in a loss to the University of Cincinnati on Sept. 18.
After his ejection for a targeting penalty against Cincinnati, McFadden remained on the sideline with his team, helping where he could. Matthews hadn’t played since Indiana’s Sept. 4 season opener after he went down with an injury and stayed at a hospital in Iowa City, Iowa.
In a postgame press conference, head coach Tom Allen said he was concerned about Western Kentucky’s offense, which led the nation in passing yards per game heading into the matchup. McFadden said in the press conference he knew Western Kentucky would be fast, and speed would be an emphasis for Indiana’s defense.
Allen said he was grateful for the veteran presence on the team and the plays they made throughout the night.
“Your best players need to be your hardest workers and your guys that step up at key times to make plays,” Allen said. “That’s what you saw tonight.”
Matthews was not a starter, and sophomore defensive back Josh Sanguinetti started instead.
Meanwhile, McFadden made his presence known in his return to the field, picking up four solo tackles during the Hilltoppers’ second drive of the game.
When Western Kentucky called a trick play in the second quarter, McFadden made the stop. When graduate student quarterback Bailey Zappe found junior wide receiver Jerreth Sterns on a throwback pass, McFadden sniffed out Sterns before he could pass back to Zappe and was credited with a sack on the play.
McFadden and Matthews combined efforts to keep graduate student running back Adam Cofield one yard from a first down on a second down play in the second quarter. McFadden held Cofield to no gain on the next play before Matthews brought down freshman running back Kye Robichaux on the ensuing fourth down to end the Hilltoppers’ drive.
Matthews and McFadden met again in the third quarter to force an incompletion on a pass intended for Sterns.
After Western Kentucky stormed down the field in the third quarter with three consecutive plays totaling 43 yards, Indiana took a timeout. McFadden said the defense took time to communicate with one another to settle down and relax.
Following the timeout, Indiana’s defense allowed just six yards on three plays. Matthews helped bring down freshman wide receiver Dakota Thomas on the first play.
“During that moment I think guys really locked in and just did their job,” McFadden said.
Facing a third and 15 in the fourth quarter, Zappe found Sterns again for a 14-yard pickup. It was Matthews that kept him from gaining that extra yard, forcing the Hilltoppers to punt. The Hoosiers scored on their next offensive possession, and held on after a late Western Kentucky touchdown.