WKU comes up short against Hoosiers in front of record crowd


Brittany Fisher

Western Kentucky University senior running back Adam Cofield (7) is tackled at the one yard line during Saturday night’s game against the Indiana Hoosiers in Houchens-Smith Stadium. The Hoosiers won 33-31.

Wyatt Sparkman, Football reporter

WKU (1-2) hosted the Indiana Hoosiers (2-2, 0-1 B1G) on Saturday evening at Houchens-Smith Stadium for the fourth-ever matchup between the two programs. WKU lost a heartbreaker 33-31 in front of a record crowd of 25,071 on parent’s weekend.

“It was spectacular, I can’t say enough about our crowd,” WKU head coach Tyson Helton said after the game. “It was a great atmosphere and we’re going to need it in two weeks’ time when we start conference play.”

WKU graduate quarterback Bailey Zappe threw for 365 yards and a trio of touchdowns on 31-of-44 without a pick.


Indiana redshirt junior quarterback Michael Penix Jr. made 35 of his 53 passes for 373 yards through the air.

“It’s our job to score enough points to outscore them if they score 33, and that’s not a knock against our offense because at times it was spectacular to watch our offense play tonight,” Helton said. “But those guys in our offense and Bailey Zappe will tell you, we need to go out there and deal with the dang game. That’s why I love this football team because everybody’s going to take ownership of it at the end of the day.”

WKU freshman wide receiver Malachi Corley caught nine passes for 70 yards, along with his first collegiate touchdown.  

Indiana graduate running back Stephen Carr rushed for 109 yards for 4.4 yards per carry with touchdowns on the ground. 

Indiana redshirt junior kicker Charles Campbell went for 4-for-4 on his field goals, including two makes over 40 yards. 


WKU won the coin toss and elected to defer the opening kickoff. 

The Hoosiers’ first play was a dropped pass by graduate wide receiver D.J. Matthews Jr. Penix then connected with senior wide receiver Ty Fryfogle on a third-and-seven attempt. Penix spread the wealth, connecting on his next three passes to get Indiana down inside the redzone. 

Carr converted a third-and-six with a 15-yard run before punching in a one-yard touchdown on the next play to give Indiana a 7-0 lead with 10:15 left in the first quarter.  

WKU went three-and-out on its first drive of the game. Redshirt senior punter John Haggerty III kicked a booming 61-yard punt to pin the Indiana offense back on its own 19-yard line. Matthews went down after the play and was helped off the field. 

Indiana continued where it left off, marching down the field with ease before taking a 14-0 lead with 5:02 left in the first quarter on a quarterback sneak from Penix on the one-yard line. 

The Hilltoppers’ second drive went much better than the first, moving the ball down the field with a healthy mix of running and passing. Graduate running back Adam Cofield picked up WKU’s first third down conversion of the game with a three-yard run on third-and-two. 

The first quarter came to an end after a six-yard reception by Corley to get WKU on the Indiana seven-yard line.  


WKU began the second quarter with three consecutive Cofield runs, picking up a third-and-two before ramming in a one-yard touchdown run to cut the lead to 14-7 with 14:27 left in the first half. 

The red-hot Hoosier offense continued its dominance on its third drive. Penix picked up a third-and-nine with a 17-yard reception by Fryfogle, then the Penix-Fryfole connection picked up seven yards on a fourth-and-two to put the ball on the WKU 33-yard line. 

The WKU defense then woke up, forcing a 51-yard field goal attempt by Campbell. Campbell came up short, but an offside call gave him a second chance. He connected with his second shot, extending Indiana’s lead to 17-7 with 9:49 left in the first half.

“We had some penalties in the first half that were costly in my opinion,” Helton said. “Fact of the matter is, we lined up offsides on a field goal. Take that away, it’s a different game, right? Those are the things that lose games, so we’ve got to do a better job in the first half of not having the penalties that hurt us.”

WKU took four penalties on offense and seven total penalties on the defensive side of the ball throughout the game.

The Hilltopper offense started the next drive on the Hoosier’s 35 after the kickoff by redshirt senior Jared Smolar went out-of-bounds. The drive started with a 33-yard pitch-and-catch to junior Jerreth Sterns. 

The drive stalled out after the Hoosier defense stuffed Cofield on a third-and-one, then again with freshman running back Kye Robichaux on a fourth-and-one with 7:37 left in the first half. 

Indiana marched down into WKU territory with ease, completing short passes from Penix to Fryfogle and Carr before senior defensive end DeAngelo Malone picked his first sack of the season. 

“We definitely played better as a defense, but the offense really helped us come through this game even though we came up short,” redshirt sophomore defensive back AJ Brathwaite Jr. said. “We can go back to the drawing board tomorrow.”

The Indiana drive came to an end after sophomore running back Tim Baldwin Jr. dropped a would-be first down on third-and-seven. Campbell extended the Hoosier’s lead 20-7 with a 37-yard field goal with 2:42 left in the first half.  

Zappe began the two-minute drill, connecting with Sterns on an 8-yard pass then a 24-yard pass two plays later. Freshman running back Noah Whittington picked up an eight-yard run, putting the ball on the Indiana 16-yard line. 

The WKU offense failed on a trick play, resulting in an 11-yard sack by senior linebacker Micah McFadden. The next play, Zappe connected with redshirt junior wide receiver Daewood Davis on a 25-yard touchdown pass to cut the Indiana lead to 20-14 with 55 seconds left in the first half. 

“Bailey had a great game in my opinion,” Corley said. “I feel like he put the ball where it needed to be on time, he made the right reads and the right checks. As far as the offense, he read the scheme of the defense very well. Anytime that there was a play that we’d call that he didn’t like he’d always check in or check out of it. He’s a really smart quarterback.”

Penix and the Hoosier offense marched down the field, picking up chunks of yardage and taking the ball down inside the Hilltoppers 10 yard line. WKU stood tall, forcing two Penix incompletions before Campbell made a 35-yard field goal as time expired in the first half to give Indiana a 23-14 lead going into the break. 


The Hilltoppers started the second half hot. Zappe connected with Davis on a 39-yard pitch-and-catch before Zappe completed his 11th consecutive pass to redshirt freshman wide receiver Dalvin Smith for a 13-yard touchdown to cut the Hoosier’s lead to 23-21 with 13:13 left in the third quarter.

Indiana dinked-and-dunked down the field on its next drive before Malone came up with his second sack of the game. Indiana’s drive stalled out, forcing Campbell to make a 48-yard field goal to put Indiana up 26-21 with 9:10 left in the third quarter. 

Zappe completed an 11-yard pass to Corley on a third-and-five to get WKU’s next drive going. Zappe spread the wealth with his receivers and got the ball inside the redzone. WKU’s momentum was halted and redshirt sophomore kicker Brayden Narveson made a 34-yard field goal to cut the lead to just 26-24 with 5:53 left in the third quarter. 

The next two drives ended with punts. Indiana freshman punter James Evans pinned WKU at the five-yard line, while Haggerty launched his second 60-yard punt of the game. The Hoosiers began their next drive on their own 23-yard line. 


Indiana’s trip down the field ended within the next three plays. Evans pinned WKU at its own six-yard line with a 48-yard punt. 

WKU got the ball up to its own 38 before Sterns took a short pass on third-and-15, making it fourth-and-one at the Indiana 48. The Hilltoppers elected to punt the ball away instead of going for it, a decision that was met with thundering disapproval from the crowd. 

“We had stopped them two times in a row, we had made them punt two times in a row, and so we were playing solid defense,” Helton said, explaining the decision. “… I wanted to make them have to go the distance, and there was plenty of time left on the clock… if we had crossed midfield, if we’d have been in that 38 [yard range], somewhere in that range I probably would have [gone for it].”

The Hoosiers converted a third-and-12 after a slow start to their drive. Penix moved the ball downfield with short, quick passes before Carr capped off the 14-play, 86-yard drive by trucking his way into the endzone for a one-yard touchdown run with 4:27 left in the game. The drive took six minutes off the clock.

The Hilltoppers converted a fourth-and-seven after a terrible start to their drive with a 38-yard completion to junior wide receiver Mitchell Tinsley. Later in the drive, Zappe connected with Corley on a third-and-seven for a 19-yard touchdown pass to cut the lead 33-31 with 2:43 left on the clock. It was Corley’s first-ever collegiate touchdown reception.

“In terms of performance, I feel like I’m starting to be more consistent as a player,” Corley said. “I feel like my coaches are starting to trust me more and give me the ball in those late game situations.”

WKU decided against the onside kick, instead kicking deep, but kicker Cory Munson kicked the ball out-of-bounds. Indiana began at its own 35 and the choice sealed the Hilltoppers’ fate. Penix connected with Fryfogle on a third-and-eight and Indiana drained the rest of the clock with kneel-downs.

Up next, WKU will travel to East Lansing, Michigan to play the No. 20 Michigan State Spartans on Oct. 2 at 6:30 p.m. CT. 

“It’s about winning, and we don’t we don’t take losing lightly,” Helton said. “We’ll go back and clean it up and get ready for Michigan State.”

Football reporter Wyatt Sparkman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @wyattsparkman3.