BOWLING GREEN, Ky. (AP) - Casey Tinius hit a 34-yard field goal as time expired and Western Kentucky extended its winning streak to five games with a 10-9 win over Florida International on Saturday.
The Hilltoppers (5-4, 5-1 Sun Belt Conference) overcame three kicking blunders before Tinius hit the game winner, including a blocked kick, botched snap and missed field goal by Jesse Roy.
``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.'
Tinius, Western Kentucky's starting kicker to begin the season, had missed seven straight attempts coming into the game. Western Kentucky kickers Monte Merrick, Roy and Tinius were a combined 3 for 12 on field goals coming into the game.
``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 stepping stone for me to move ahead from here.'
Jack Griffin went 3 of 3 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.
After Griffin's kick gave Florida International the lead, Western Kentucky saw two offensive drives end in a punt and another by interception.
The Hilltoppers regained possession at their own 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 marched on for his field goal five plays later.
``I believe in our guys, and that's why you see us keep lining up to take field goals,' Taggart said.
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 of 24 for 143 yards.
The Hilltoppers outgained the Golden Panthers 324-180 on offense as Wesley Carroll finished 10 of 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.
Linebacker Andrew Jackson said the Hilltoppers ``finally buckled in and played all four quarters.'
With the win, Western Kentucky moved above .500 for the first time since completing a transition to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2009.
The Associated Press News Service
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