BOWLING GREEN — Casey Tinius hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired Saturday, and Western Kentucky extended its winning streak to five games with a 10-9 win over Florida International.
The Hilltoppers (5-4, 5-1 Sun Belt Conference) overcame three kicking blunders — blocked kick, botched snap and missed field goal by Jesse Roy — before the game winner.
"When it was time for (Tinius) to go out, I was confident," Western Kentucky Coach Willie Taggart said. "After everything we'd been through — the way the field goals were going during the game — there was no way he could miss that ball."
Coming into the game, Tinius, the starting kicker to begin the season, had missed seven straight attempts, and he and kickers Monte Merrick and Roy were a combined 3-for-12 on field goals.
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"That one's been a long time coming for me," said a teary-eyed Tinius. "Obviously it's not secret — everybody in here knows it hasn't been going well for me the last couple years. That's not going to erase everything, but it's a good steppingstone for me to move ahead from here."
Jack Griffin went three of three on field goals for Florida International, including a 43-yarder that gave the Golden Panthers (5-4, 2-3) a 9-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Western Kentucky then saw two offensive drives end in a punt and another in an interception.
The Hilltoppers regained possession at their 47-yard line with 1:42 to play. Facing third-and-10, Kawaun Jakes made a 12-yard connection with Bobby Rainey, and Florida International added 15 more yards on a personal-foul penalty.
Tinius took the field five plays later.
Western Kentucky's Kadeem Jones scored the game's only touchdown on a 2-yard rush in the first quarter, capping a nine-play, 71-yard drive.
Rainey eclipsed 4,000 career rushing yards with 155 yards on 28 carries to lead Western Kentucky, while Jakes finished 8-for-24 for 143 yards.
The Hilltoppers outgained the Golden Panthers 324-180 on offense as Wesley Carroll finished 10-for-20 for 128 yards and was sacked twice.
Western Kentucky didn't give up a touchdown for the second time this season and held star receiver T.Y. Hilton to two receptions for 32 yards.
With the win, Western Kentucky moved above .500 for the first time since completing a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2009.