Indiana football is looking to exceed its win total from last season and stay undefeated with a matchup against Western Kentucky University this Saturday afternoon at home.
The Hoosiers will see themselves against a familiar out-of-conference opponent as they face off against the Hilltoppers for the second year in a row. Last year, Indiana traveled to Bowling Green, Kentucky, to take on Western Kentucky in their home stadium. The Hoosiers barely squeaked by, winning that game 33-31, on Sept. 25, 2021, to secure their second and final win of the season.
The Hilltoppers are led by fourth-year head coach Tyson Helton and come off of a bye week in week two. Western Kentucky has won both of its games so far this season, against Austin Peay State University and University of Hawaii.
Despite losing former quarterback Bailey Zappe to the NFL Draft last year, the Hilltoppers brought in graduate student quarterback Austin Reed from the University of West Florida, where he won a Division II national championship.
[Related: COLUMN: 2022 Indiana football can surpass its 2021 self by beating Western Kentucky]
Reed leads an offense that has already scored a combined 87 points in two games. He has thrown for 547 yards through two games, along with seven passing touchdowns and a rushing touchdown.
Former Hoosier redshirt junior running back Davion Ervin-Poindexter takes the majority of the snaps for the Hilltoppers at tailback. He has 90 yards, along with one touchdown this year.
Reed’s main receiving weapon is redshirt senior wide receiver Daewood Davis, Western Kentucky’s only player with more than 100 receiving yards — 202 through the first two games.
The other side of the ball tells a different story, as the Hilltoppers’ defense is doing just enough to keep them afloat. They have given up 339.5 total yards per game, including 251 total yards on the ground
“You have two games to evaluate from this year, so you lean heavily on those,” Allen said. “You also can use all 14 games they had from last year. They played in their conference championship game, and they played in a bowl game.”
As for the Hoosiers, despite being down at home at the half last week against the University of Idaho, they were able to escape with a 35-22 win in the rainy conditions. The center of attention throughout practice ahead of the matchup against Western Kentucky is consistency and focus throughout all four quarters of play, Allen said.
“Looking for consistency and looking for a strong first quarter start,” Allen said. “Be able to play at a high level right out of the gate— o be able to execute for four quarters. It is about us doing our jobs.”
Hoosier redshirt junior quarterback Connor Bazelak comes into the third game of the season with 527 yards, three touchdowns and two interceptions, only surrendering one sack so far on the season.
Senior running back Shaun Shivers is coming off one of his biggest games, breaking 100 rushing yards for the third time in his collegiate career. He’ll look to continue his success against a team that surrenders 125.5 rushing yards per game this season.
Bazelak’s main two targets, junior Cam Camper and graduate senior DJ Matthews Jr., look to each have another exciting game on a strong start to the 2022 campaign. Both players have racked up a combined 359 receiving yards. Camper, who leads the team in receiving yards, is still without a touchdown reception.
The Hoosier defense has sacked the opposing quarterback seven times, two of them coming at the hands of freshman linebacker Dasan McCullough. The defense has come up big for the Hoosiers a couple times in their first two games.
Indiana has given up the third-most total yards and second-most runshing yards in the Big Ten so far through the season. The only team with more rushing yards given up in the Big Ten is Nebraska, who has played three games compared to Indiana’s two.
“Each week, they are getting a little bit better, “Allen said. “The more they play the better they are going to get, as they get out there and learn our system and learn to communicate and play at a high level of confidence and a high level of execution together.”
The Hoosiers come into the matchup with the Hilltoppers as a 6.5-point favorite. The game is scheduled for a noon kickoff Saturday and will air on the Big Ten Network.