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Sycamores fail 3 times late, lose to Indiana 24-17

Associated Press Published: September 2, 2012
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BLOOMINGTON, Ind. (AP) — Indiana State running back Shakir Bell showed Indiana it made a mistake by not recruiting him.

Sycamores quarterback Mike Perish proved he could contend with a Big Ten defense.

And with a little more success late, Indiana State just might have pulled the big upset it had been dreaming about.

Bell ran for 192 yards and a score, and Perish threw for 211 yards and another score in his starting debut, but Indiana State failed to score on its final three drives — all into Indiana territory — and wound up falling 24-17 to their in-state rival.

"Being an Indiana guy, this does hurt me. It hurts me dearly," Bell said. "It's a tough loss and a lot of my guys in there are hurting. We've just got to learn from it. We've got to execute better.'"

Bell, last year's co-runner up for the Walter Payton Award, the Football Championship Subdivision's version of the Heisman Trophy, was spectacular.

He averaged 8.0 yards on 24 carries and on his sixth run of the night found a hole in the middle of the line, sprinted through it untouched and ran 54 yards for the first score of the game.

He was still running hard in the fourth quarter and looked like he might score after the Hoosiers turned the ball over on downs at the Sycamores 45. But after 21 yards, Bell was shoved out of bounds — a defensive play that prevented Indiana State from having a chance to win its first game over a Big Ten foe.

"I thought Shakir played with heart, ran well, picked up blitzes and just played an all-around game and proved that he can play on any stage," coach Trent Miles said. "He's a real back. I mean he's the real deal. He doesn't amaze me anymore. I just kind of expect it."

The difference Saturday was Tre Roberson and a better Indiana defense.

Roberson threw for a career-high 280 yards and one touchdown, ran for another and Indiana's defense made three stops — at the Hoosiers 35, 42 and 36 — in the fourth quarter.

The victory ended Indiana's nine-game losing streak.

"I thought he (Roberson) did real well. I think he's going to have a real good year, and I think he's a lot better than a lot of people think he is," coach Kevin Wilson said of Roberson. "We didn't want to run him a bunch, we didn't try to. We tried to keep him in the pocket, we worked on that. I think you saw he can throw on target and he's getting better, and I think he'll do nothing but get better."

What changed?

Indiana's coaches spent the offseason grooming Roberson to become a more traditional quarterback rather than a run-first guy and focused the defensive attention on getting stops when they needed them most.

It worked.

Indiana's offensive coaches spent months revamping Roberson's throwing motion, trying to get him to hold the ball higher with the hope of improving his accuracy and efficiency.

Roberson finished 26 of 36, both career-highs, with the one scoring pass and he ran seven times for 19 yards and another score.

"Coming in this year, the game was slower," Roberson said. "In the offseason knowing what to work on, it just it made me more confident, it made me more comfortable."

Nobody expected it to be easy.

But a series of drops and missed opportunities prevented the Sycamores from winning.

Instead, Indiana State fell to 0-4 all-time against the Hoosiers, 0-10 all-time against the Big Ten and still has not won a season-opening road game since winning at Drake in 1980.

Roberson made sure of it as he answered everything the Sycamores threw at him.

Bell got the scoring started, finding a seam in the middle of the line on Indiana State's second series. He sprinted through the hole untouched and ran 54 yards for the score and a 7-0 lead.

Roberson came right back. Three plays later, Shane Wynn got behind the Sycamores secondary and Roberson found him for a 71-yard TD pass to tie the score.

The Indiana quarterback was only getting started.

He finished a 74-yard, 11-play drive with Stephen Houston's 15-yard TD run that made it 14-7.

And after trading field goals before halftime, Roberson plunged in from 1-yard out on the opening drive of the second half to make it 24-10.

Indiana State responded with its own scoring march, fooling the Hoosiers on fourth-and-3 with Perish's short throw to fullback Austin Wozniak, who lumbered up the field and slid into the end zone to make it 24-17.

Indiana's defense took care of the rest.

"Our defense needs to be better, but four sacks, a couple turnovers, it's a decent start," Wilson said. "I'd like to see those guys continue to play better."