BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson looked confident, poised and in total control Saturday night.
It was a refreshingly new look and a refreshingly different result.
The new-and-improved Roberson threw for a career-high 280 yards and one touchdown, ran for another and the Indiana defense came up with big stops on each of Indiana State's final three series to preserve a 24-17 victory in Saturday night's season-opener.
"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."
Indiana fans seemed more relieved than celebratory after the Hoosiers ended a nine-game losing streak -- winning for the first time since beating South Carolina State 38-21 on Sept. 17, 2011.
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.
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.
The result: Roberson finished 26 of 36, both career-highs, and one TD pass. He also ran seven times for 19 yards and another score, enough to help the Hoosiers maintain control for most of the night.
"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."
The defense was better, too.
Clinging to a 24-17 lead after three quarters, Indiana managed to stop the Sycamores at the Hoosiers 35, 42 and 36 on its final three series.
Nobody expected it to be easy against a Football Championship Subdivision school out to prove it could play with college football's big boys.
Indiana State did accomplish that much.
Shakir Bell, the co-runner-up for last season's Walter Payton Award, the FCS version of the Heisman Trophy, ran for 103 yards in the first quarter and finished with 24 carries for 194 yards and one long score.
Quarterback Mike Perish, the transfer from Western Michigan, was 20 of 31 with 211 yards, one TD and one interception.
But a series of drops and missed opportunities prevented the Sycamores from winning their first game ever against a Big Ten foe.
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.
"We had chances throughout the game, but we didn't take advantage of them," coach Trent Miles said. "We just didn't get it done, and that falls on us."
Roberson made sure of it as he seemed to have an answer for anything 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.
Brian Williams stopped one drive with an interception on fourth-and-11 at the Hoosiers 35. The Sycamores turned it over on downs at the Indiana 42 and wide receiver Cody Latimer sealed the win by batting away a ball in the end zone on the game's final play.
That was good enough Saturday.
"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."
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