Inside Charles Campbell’s winning 51-yard kick that took IU football to 3-0′

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BLOOMINGTON — Before the match was seemingly decided by the power and accuracy of a blond-haired man’s right foot. In front of the stairs, the pigskin flies through the air. Before Tom Allen took off his headset, threw his call-up note and lost his shoe. Before Charles Campbell ran across the field with his right fist. Before he was lifted into the air.

Before that, there was Thursday.

To understand Campbell’s winning 51-yard field goal against Western Kentucky on Saturday, it’s important to know what happened before practice on Thursday.

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Charles Campbell, 93, of Indiana shows emotion after scoring the winning kick during the Indiana vs. Western Kentucky football game at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2022.

Campbell was out for practice and went to work after missing a field goal against Idaho the week before. He kicked sideline to sideline. He worked on keeping the ball straight across the yard line.

“He’s very technical in terms of, if he has even the slightest bit of a kick, he won’t stop working that day until he gets it,” said IU long snapper Sean Wracher. “…He hit a big kick this week because he’s able to know what he’s done wrong and then come back and fix it the next week and be trustworthy, be who he is.”

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Campbell’s kicks on Saturday helped improve IU to 3-0. It wasn’t just the winning kick, but Campbell’s entire body of work during the match. He scored 4-for-4 field goals. It was a match that at times seemed unlikely for IU to win. A deeply flawed IU team, which has made a Harry Houdini-esque breakaway 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 times when IU coach Tom Allen is hard on Campbell. When Campbell scores field goals during practice, Allen has a megaphone on which he harasses Campbell. “He’s just sitting in his ear like, ‘You gotta get this 93, dadadadada,'” said IU-wide receiver Donaven McCulley, mimicking Allen.

Indiana celebrates Charles Campbell (93) scoring the winning kick in the Indiana vs. Western Kentucky football game at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2022.

Indiana celebrates Charles Campbell (93) scoring the winning kick in the Indiana vs. Western Kentucky football game at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2022.

A lot has been built up for Campbell until Saturday. Campbell has lived through the highs and lows of the program. During the 2020 and 2021 seasons combined, Campbell scored 23 of 29 field goals. However, his ambitions extend beyond the college game.

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“I want to play in the NFL and to do that I have to be more consistent than last year, and I know that,” Campbell, who scored 13 of 18 field goals last season, said in August. “I may have had to make some minor adjustments in my corners to get to the kick, but mentally I’m trying to prepare myself… that I would want to go 1-on-1 every kick.”

In Saturday’s game, Campbell was 3-for-4 on field goals this season. Which leads us to Saturday, where the contrast in the kicking game emphasized 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 got a field goal blocked in extra time.

After that kick was blocked, IU struggled with its first offensive possession in overtime. That made for Campbell’s long, sub-optimal 51-yard attempt. He used his right arm to align the stairs, then took two steps to the left.

“I retrace my steps and always say a prayer,” Campbell said. “I always go over my prayer. I say ‘amen’ and I come back, and then I empty and try the stairs.”

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The snap was good. The grip was good. Campbell swung his right leg, hit the ball and sent it through the air.

“It was long, but I hit it well,” Campbell said. “I thank the good God above that I got it right. I couldn’t do without him.”

The kick went through the uprights, perhaps too, casting more demons out of the 2021 IU season. Pandemonium followed.

“I knew he would make it,” McCulley said. “He does it in practice. So it was crazy. I’m not going to lie.”

Charles Campbell, 93, of Indiana, whose girlfriend is a Red Stepper, poses with the squad after winning the winning field goal during the Indiana vs. Western Kentucky football game at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2022.

Charles Campbell, 93, of Indiana, whose girlfriend is a Red Stepper, poses with the squad after winning the winning field goal during the Indiana vs. Western Kentucky football game at Memorial Stadium on September 17, 2022.

Allen doesn’t remember much about watching. He does remember Campbell crushing it. He remembers throwing off his headphones, throwing away the phone book and running away. At one point, Allen said, he lost his shoe.

Campbell went for a run and was eventually lifted into the air by his teammates, his body above a swarm of cream and crimson. Also at one point in Memorial Stadium, 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 such kicks when the team needs him, so proud of that guy,” Allen said.

When Campbell was about to speak to the media after the game, Allen’s voice was a bit raspy, yet understandable.

“FOUR FIELD GOALS, I THOUGHT,” Allen said. “FOUR FIELD GOALS!”

This article originally appeared on Indianapolis Star: IU Football: Charles Campbell Kicks Hoosiers Past Western Kentucky

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