CEDAR RAPIDS – All eyes were on the quarterbacks as the Cedar Rapids Titans kicked off the 2016 season with a preseason game against the visiting Iowa Barnstormers.
An early hole was just too large for either signal-caller to dig out.
The Barnstormers raced out to a 26-0 lead with touchdowns on their first four possessions, then held on for a 59-50 victory over the Titans in an Indoor Football League preseason game before 4,108 fans Friday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“We’ve just got to settle down,” Cedar Rapids Coach Mark Stoute said. “This is indoor football. Twenty points doesn’t mean anything in indoor football. You’re still in the game, you’ve got to settle down and get stops.”
Rookie Dylan Favre started under center for Cedar Rapids and led the first four drives, but was undone by a pair of sacks, a tailback fumble and an interception on a batted ball over three scoreless possessions.
“Just execute,” Favre said. “We turned the ball over twice, two sacks. You hold onto the ball. You can’t win like that.”
With the Titans stumbling early, Iowa wasted no time getting the upper hand as quarterback Donovan Porterie – the league leader with 55 touchdown passes last season for Green Bay – tossed a pair of short touchdown passes. Former Iowa State tailback Aaron Wimberly added a touchdown run, then former Northern Iowa quarterback Brion Carnes fired a 21-yard scoring strike on his first play from scrimmage as the Barnstormers closed the opening quarter with a 26-0 lead.
“You can’t fall asleep in the quarter and not move the ball,” Stoute said. “It’s the name of the game.”
The Cedar Rapids defense settled down in the second quarter, allowing just a pair of field goals as the offense started to find some footing. Favre hit receiver Ryan Balentine on a pair of throws to get near the goal line, then his 1-yard quarterback keeper got the Titans on the board, 26-6.
Jawad Yatim took the reins of the offense for the final two drives of the first half and delivered a 36-yard score to receiver Dawan Scott on 3rd-and-16 from his own 14-yard line. Yatim’s second drive stalled at the Iowa 5-yard line, but a Nick Belcher field goal left a 29-16 halftime deficit.
Yatim finished 4 of 8 for 53 yards and a score, and ran three times for 18 yards.
“Defense has to get it done and offense has to move the ball,” Stoute said. “There’s no magic to what we do. Magic is execution. When you don’t execute, you fall behind. When you execute, you get back in the game.”
After a dropped pass on 4th-and-10 stalled another Favre-led drive to begin the second half, the offense began to click in earnest trailing 39-16. Favre directed TD drives on four of the next five possessions, including scoring strikes to Scott for 19 yards and a pair to Jared Elmore that pulled the Titans within one score three times, but a pair of late Iowa field goals and Carnes’ third TD pass kept Cedar Rapids at bay.
“(Favre’s) got a real good understanding of what’s going on,” said Elmore, who caught seven passes for 83 yards. “He started seeing things a lot better. It slowed down for him. He just started hitting us and we were running a good combination of routes.”
Favre finished 14-of-21 passing for 171 yards and three scores, two to Elmore. Favre also ran for 43 yards on four carries. Scott caught four passes for 69 yards and two scores.
“We’ve got a great group of receivers,” Favre said. “They made a ton of plays. As far as understanding coverages and weak spots in them, I’ve got to continue to get better. It was my first time out here. Some good, some bad. It will be a good tape to watch and learn from.”
Cedar Rapids opens the regular season Feb. 20 against the Green Bay Blizzard at the U.S. Cellular Center.
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