CEDAR RAPIDS – With the insertion of quarterback Willie Copeland into the Cedar Rapids Titans starting lineup, one byproduct of his game was immediately evident.
The Titans have a quarterback run game again.
Copeland ran for 118 yards and two scores, but couldn’t generate enough scoring drives as the Titans fell to the Wichita Falls Nighthawks, 38-34, before 4,375 fans last night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
“He’s been here for three weeks now,” Cedar Rapids Coach Mark Stoute said. “He’s had a chance to gradually pick it up. Obviously the first night you go out and play is a little bit different than being in practice, but he’s a veteran guy. He understands the game.”
The zone-read is Stoute’s preferred offense, but it has been used sparingly the past couple of seasons with pro-style quarterbacks like Sam Durley and Spencer Ohms. With Copeland, the ability to burn opponents with his legs is now a valuable weapon again.
“He’s the reigning MVP of the league,” Stoute said. “So he brings a lot of intangibles to the offense in terms of leadership, in terms of knowledge of the game, in terms of how fast he sees the game. He has a reputation for being a very quick-delivery guy who can put the ball in the right place. He’s a very sharp individual and is on top of his game.”
Copeland – obtained in an April 13 trade with the Colorado Ice – was 12-of-27 passing for 160 yards and a late touchdown to Willie Carter.
Copeland and the Titans had three cracks from the Wichita Falls 12-yard-line in the closing seconds to win it, but three straight incompletions sealed the defeat.
Receiver Bryan Pray led Cedar Rapids with four receptions for 77 yards.
Copeland’s timing with receivers on longer routes appears to be a work in progress.
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Cedar Rapids tailback Washaun Ealey’s five-yard touchdown run in the second quarter tied the game at 14-14. Ealey has a touchdown in all 10 games this season for Cedar Rapids, but did not play in the second half.
The game was a rematch of last week’s 63-40 Cedar Rapids win at Texas. In that game, Wichita Falls quarterback Marcus Jackson had 95 passing yards for the entire game. Last night, he was 14-of-18 passing for 112 yards and three touchdowns in the first half alone. He also added a touchdown on the ground.
“The toughest thing is, you kind of get very familiar with each other very quickly,” Stoute said of the back-to-back games with expansion Wichita Falls (4-5). “Your film is your film. You’ve got to figure out what did you do good, what did you do bad and kind of fix that. And obviously know that whatever hurt them, they’re going to try to take away. So it’s a little bit tricky on the game plan.”
The Cedar Rapids defensive secondary was missing standout cornerback Demetruce McNeal for the second straight game with an elbow injury. Wichita Falls receiver J.J. Hayes, obtained from Cedar Rapids in a Feb. 16 trade, burned his former team with eight catches for 102 yards and an 11-yard touchdown.
At 6-4, Cedar Rapids remains a game ahead of third-place Green Bay (4-5) for the final playoff spot in the United Conference.
Cedar Rapids visits Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines for the first time next Saturday to face the Iowa Barnstormers (3-6).
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