Bloomington, Ind. — Kellen Lewis accounted for 329 yards of total offense and four touchdowns as Indiana picked up a 31-13 win over the Western Kentucky University football team Saturday at Memorial Stadium in the 2008 season opener for both teams.
Lewis rushed for a game-high 185 yards and two touchdowns, and completed 17 of 27 passes for 144 yards and a pair of scores.
"I’ll tell you what, Kellen Lewis is a difference maker, and he really made the difference today," said Hilltopper head coach David Elson. "I was encouraged we came out and we competed — not well enough to win — but we competed hard all afternoon. You have to make plays to win, and Indiana made more plays than we did today."
After being forced into a three-and-out on their opening drive, the Hoosiers struck quickly the second time they had the ball. Jeremy Moore backed IU up to its own 10 yard line on a put, but in just three plays Indiana marched down the field — getting a 75-yard touchdown run by Lewis to put the first points on the board.
Moore punted seven times on the day, averaging 43.9 yards per kick, and backing the Hoosiers up inside the 20 on five of those punts.
The Hoosiers added three more points on their next possession thanks to a 28-yard Austin Starr field goal to take a 10-0 lead at the end of a quarter. Indiana made it three straight scoring drives, opening the second quarter with a 12-play, 85-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard touchdown pass from Lewis to Ray Fisher to take a 17-point lead. That would prove to be the final score of the half as IU took a 17-0 lead into the locker room.
The Hoosiers held a 263-72 advantage in total yardage in the opening half, with Lewis accounting for 203 of IU’s yards — 112 rushing and 91 passing. The Topper defense which was able to limit IU to 187 yards of offense in the final 30 minutes, gave the offense a short field on WKU’s first three drives of the second half.
The Hilltoppers got their best field position of the game after Trent Calhoun picked off a Lewis pass at the IU 32 on the opening drive of the second half, but on the first play a K.J. Black pass to Jake Gaebler was fumbled at the one-yard line, giving the ball back to the Hoosiers. WKU took advantage another short field on their next possession, however, as Zac Minturn connected on his first collegiate field goal — a 27-yard make — to put the Hilltoppers on the board and make it a 17-3 game. Minturn added a 22-yard field goal on WKU’s next possession to cut the deficit to 17-6.
Indiana was able to seize momentum back on the ensuing possession, however, driving 72 yards on seven plays, scoring on a five-yard pass from Lewis to Damarlo Belcher to stretch the lead to 24-6 with 17 seconds remaining in the third quarter. For the Hoosiers, it was their first score since the 11:12 mark of the second period.
The Hilltoppers found the endzone for the first time in 2008 when Black connected with Gaebler on a 32-yard scoring pass to cut the IU lead to 24-13 with 9:39 remaining in the game, but on the very next snap for the Hoosiers, Lewis broke a 62-yard touchdown run for the final score of the game, pushing the Indiana lead to 31-13.
WKU was limited to 63 rushing yards on the afternoon, as Black led the way with 47 yards on 15 carries. He also completed 19 of 31 passes for 219 yards. Both his pass attempts and passing yards were career highs. Gaebler pulled in six catches for 81 yards, with Quinterrance Cooper racking up a game-high 83 receiving yards on five catches.
Defensively, Alonzo Higgins finished with a career-best 11 tackles, while Blake Boyd made nine stops — including 2.5 tackles for loss.
The Hilltopers play their second of three straight road games to open the 2008 campaign next Saturday, visiting Eastern Kentucky at 5 p.m. (CDT) in the 85th "Battle of the Bluegrass".