BLOOMINGTON — Before the game was seemingly being decided by the strength and accuracy of a blonde-haired man’s right foot. Before the kick, the pigskin flying through the air. Before Tom Allen threw his headset off, threw his call sheet and lost his shoe. Before Charles Campbell ran down the field pumping his right fist. Before he was hoisted up into the air.
Before all of that, there was Thursday.
To understand Campbell’s game-winning, 51-yard field goal Saturday against Western Kentucky, it’s important to know what happened before practice Thursday.
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Campbell was out before practice, getting in work after missing a field goal the week before against Idaho. I kicked sideline to sideline. I worked on keeping the ball straight down the yard line.
“He’s like very technical in terms of like, if he has even just a little bit off in a kick, he’s not gonna stop working that day until he figures it out,” IU long snapper Sean Wracher said. “… He hit a big kick this week because he’s able to know what he did wrong and then come back and fix it the next week and be dependable, be who he is.”
Campbell’s kicks Saturday helped IU improve to 3-0. It wasn’t just the game-winning kick but Campbell’s body of work as a whole during the game. I made 4-of-4 field goals. It was a game that at times seemed improbable for IU to win. A very flawed IU team, which has made a Harry Houdini-like escape in each of its three wins this season, is still undefeated.
This life of a kicker isn’t necessarily easy. Being successful requires ice in the veins. There are moments when IU coach Tom Allen is hard on Campbell. When Campbell kicks field goals during practice, Allen has a megaphone, to which he heckles Campbell. “He’s just in his ear like, ‘You gotta make this 93, dadadadada,'” IU wide receiver Donaven McCulley said, mimicking Allen.
For Campbell, a lot has built up to Saturday. Campbell has been through the program’s highs and lows. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined, Campbell made 23-of-29 field goals. His aspirations, though, stretch further than the college game.
“I want to play in the NFL and to do that, I got to be more consistent than I was last year, and I know that,” Campbell, who made 13-of-18 field goals last season, said in August. “I’ve had to make maybe some slight adjustments in my angles going to the kick, but mentally I’m trying to prepare myself… that I’d want to go 1-for-1 every single kick.”
Entering Saturday’s game, Campbell was 3-of-4 on field goals this season. Which leads us to Saturday, where the contrast in the kicking game highlighted Campbell’s importance all the more. Western Kentucky kicker Brayden Narveson missed what would have been a game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. Then, Narveson had a field goal blocked in overtime.
After that kick was blocked, IU struggled in its first offensive possession in overtime. That set up the long, suboptimal, 51-yard attempt by Campbell. He used his right arm to line up the kick, then took two steps to his left.
“I take my steps back and I always say a prayer,” Campbell said. “I always go over my prayer, I say ‘amen’ and I get back, and then after that, I go blank and try the kick.”
The snap was good. The hold was good. Campbell swung his right leg, connecting with the ball, sending it through the air.
“It was long, but I struck it well,” Campbell said. “I thank the good Lord above that I struck it well. I couldn’t do it without him.”
The kick went through the uprights, perhaps, too, exorcising more demons from IU’s 2021 season. Pandemonium ensued.
“I knew he was going to make it,” McCulley said. “He does it in practice. So, it was crazy. I’m not gonna lie.”
Allen doesn’t remember much from watching it. He does remember that Campbell crushed it. He remembers throwing his headset off, throwing the call sheet and taking off running. At some point, Allen said, he lost his shoe.
Campbell went running, eventually being hoisted in the air by his teammates, his body above a swarm of cream and crimson. At some point in Memorial Stadium, too, IU star basketball player Trayce Jackson-Davis spread his arms in the air.
“The bottom line is I’m proud of our team and proud of Chuck, and he’s a great, great kicker because great kickers make kicks like that when the team needs him, so proud of that guy,” Allen said.
As Campbell was about to begin speaking with the media after the game, Allen’s somewhat hoarse, yet still understandable voice ranged out.
“FOUR FIELD GOALS, THAT’S WHAT I THOUGHT,” Allen said. “FOUR FIELD GOALS!”
This article originally appeared on the Indianapolis Star: IU football: Charles Campbell kicks Hoosiers past Western Kentucky