BLOOMINGTON, Ind. — Eastern Kentucky won the second half of its season opener, outscoring Indiana 3-0 Thursday night.
But Ben Chappell passed for a career-high 326 yards, enabling the Hoosiers to survive the Colonels' upset bid, 19-13, at Memorial Stadium.
EKU was in the game until the final incomplete pass — a 40-yard heave by T.J. Pryor to Orlandus Harris in the end zone.
"I was really proud of our kids. Eastern Kentucky's not on TV a lot, and you didn't see our kids out there dancing and prancing after they made a good play," said Dean Hood, in his second season as coach of the Colonels. "They played good, hard, clean, tough football and kept coming at it. I just loved the character of our kids and just thought that was awesome."
Eastern appeared to be on the verge of taking the lead early in the fourth quarter.
Starting from their 32-yard line, the Colonels drove to first-and-goal at the 5.
But Indiana's Ray Fisher met quarterback Cody Watts at the line, forcing a fumble that Jammie Kirlew recovered for the Hoosiers.
That was the lone turnover for EKU, which had three takeaways.
"I saw (Fisher) coming. I guess I should have went down earlier," said Watts, who passed for 171 yards and a touchdown. "I thought the ball came out on the ground. But the official made the call, so that's what happened.
"As hard as it is to say, that's going to make us a better team. We'll change how I practice. They will never hear me complain again and, for the rest of the season, I will make this up to every one of my teammates."
Watts, used mostly at receiver last year, split time at quarterback. T.J. Pryor hit on five of 10 passes for 107 yards.
Indiana, 3-9 last year, has now won eight of nine and 25 of 28 home openers.
"I loved how they just kept fighting," Hood said of his team. "That was tough battle. That's a Big Ten football team, and they're big, physical guys, and our kids didn't back down."
Chappell completed 27 of 36 passes, with one touchdown and two interceptions.
The Hoosiers' "pistol" offense — a morph of the shotgun and I — netted a modest 100 yards on the ground.
Demetrius McCray led Indiana rushers with 49 yards. Trea Burgess gained 14, including a 1-yard touchdown.
Chappell completed his first six passes and led his team to a 19-10 halftime lead.
A pair of turnovers — Patrick McClellan's fumble recovery and the first of Jeremy Caldwell's two interceptions — kept the Colonels close.
Watts was sacked by Will Patterson for the game's first score, a safety.
Chappell then went 4-for-4 for 53 yards as Indiana drove 63 yards in seven plays to score the first touchdown, Burgess' 1-yard run.
On its second chance, the EKU offense got untracked. Two plays gained 13 yards.
Then, Watts found Garnett Phelps on a short crossing route over the middle. Phelps caught the ball just short of midfield, then sprinted for a 61-yard scoring play.
"Everything was executed perfectly," Phelps said. "The O-line blocked good and the quarterback made the right read, and I just did my job. ... We got off to a slow start, but that's all we needed was one play to change the momentum."
Watts caught a 61-yard touchdown in the 2008 opener at Cincinnati.
Indiana added Nick Freeland's 38-yard field goal and a 33-yard Chappell touchdown pass to Demarlo Belcher to take a 19-7 lead.
Caldwell's 40-yard punt return to the Indiana 14 resulted in a 23-yard field goal by Logan O'Connor with 31 seconds left in the half.
O'Connor added a 31-yarder with 6:06 left in the third quarter.
After Watts' fumble, the teams exchanged punts. Indiana then took the clock from 7:10 down to 26 seconds before Eastern got the ball back on its own 20. The Colonels gained half the yardage, to the Indiana 40, before falling.