BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – As Tre Roberson watched Indiana struggle Saturday night, all he wanted to do was get in the game and help his teammates.
All he could do was point out a few things he noticed on Ball State's defense.
For the sophomore quarterback, this is what the rest of the 2012 season will look like — watching games from the coaches' box, counseling teammates, adding mass and muscle to his slender 190-pound body and mending his broken lower left leg.
"It was real hard, I got a little emotional up there," Roberson said Tuesday, three days after the Hoosiers fell 41-39 to Ball State on the game's final play. "But it is what it is. I really wanted to go out and play and help them as much as I could."
Indiana (2-1) could certainly use Roberson's skills and leadership when it opens Big Ten play Sept. 29 at Northwestern.
That's not an option after doctors inserted a titanium rod into Roberson's injured leg during surgery in Boston last week. Roberson is primarily using crutches to get around campus now, though he did manage to stroll about 10 feet in a walking boot before speaking with reporters Tuesday in Bloomington.
Coach Kevin Wilson has said a full recovery will take five to six months and that he plans to redshirt Indiana's 2010 Mr. Football winner.
"Physically, I can do a lot of things. I can put pressure on the leg and walk on it now," Roberson said. "I can throw and do things like that."
What he can't do is win games with his arm or legs — a premature and disappointing end to a season that began with so much promise. Roberson started the final five games of 2011, becoming the first true freshman quarterback to ever start at Indiana. He finished the season 81 of 142 with 937 yards, three touchdowns, six interceptions, 426 yards rushing and two TDs on the ground.
The Indiana coaches spent most of the offseason refining Roberson's throwing motion, putting greater emphasis on film study and trying to turn Roberson into a stronger passer. In Week 1, Indiana got the results it was seeking.
Roberson looked poised and in complete control of the offense in going 26 of 36 for 280 yards, all career-bests, with one TD pass and one TD run in a 24-17 victory.
Everything came crashing down Sept. 8. After scoring on TD runs of 50 and 39 yards, Roberson appeared to be headed for another rushing score when he was tackled at the 2-yard line early in the second quarter. The pile came down on top of his left leg. Roberson was lifted onto a stretcher and left the field in an ambulance.
On Tuesday, Roberson acknowledged he made a bad read on the play.
"I remember it all, I looked to the wrong side, I should have played it to the other side, but I got stuck on that side," he said. "The guy fell on my leg, and I knew right away."
Roberson said he immediately started getting text messages and tweets offering support and that his family, friends, girlfriend and strength coaches have already played a big role in his recovery. He returned to campus the middle of last week.
While his teammates were on the practice field Tuesday, Roberson was beginning his comeback quest in the weight room.
Wilson also wants to keep Roberson upstairs in the coaches' box to help his replacements — Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld — identify defenses and get a better feel for what to expect from defenses when he returns to the field. NCAA rules permit Roberson to be used in that manner.
Coffman played well in the first half Saturday before leaving after the third quarter with a hip-pointer, and Sudfeld rallied the Hoosiers for two TDs in the final five minutes to turn a 13-point deficit into a 39-38 lead. Wilson said he's hopeful Coffman will be ready to go against Northwestern, though coaches will limit his activity during this week's bye.
What remains unclear is whether Roberson will attend all nine of Indiana's remaining games.
Wilson is still awaiting word on whether the Indy native would count against the team's travel squad.
"I think it will be a good learning tool for him," Wilson said. "It's interesting. When we went to a Colts (preseason) game this year, we were sitting way up high and he was watching the safeties. It's a different view up there and it's a completely different view from up there than when you're on the field. We need to take advantage of every second strength wise and size wise, getting him bigger and stronger."
Roberson is not expected back on the field before spring practice.
"I really want to take advantage of the situation," he said. "I think I can get way bigger, get faster, get mentally better and become a better quarterback."
NOTES: Wilson said sophomore linebacker Chase Hoobler will not practice this week because of a nerve injury. Wilson is uncertain how much time Hoobler may miss. ... Wilson acknowledged that coaches can ask Big Ten officials for explanations of calls during the game. Typically, Wilson said, the Hoosiers do not send in much tape, and he would not say whether the catch that set up the winning field goal was a play was sent into the league office. ... With Coffman out, Sudfeld is expected to take 80 percent to 85 percent of the snaps in practice this week. Freshman walk-ons Corey Babb and David Nelson are scheduled to split the rest.