Story by Douglas Miles, The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS — After just a week of training camp, one might expect the play to be a little uneven for the Cedar Rapids Titans.
There were plenty of miscues to go around as the Titans dropped an Indoor Football League exhibition game to the in-state rival Iowa Barnstormers, 38-26, in front of 3,238 fans Saturday night at the U.S. Cellular Center.
"We've got a ton of things to clean up, I can't wait to watch film," said former University of Iowa player Marvin McNutt, who was making his Cedar Rapids coaching debut. "For the most part, guys played hard. The intensity, the effort was there. We've got to clean up a lot of little mistakes, things that can't happen on game day."
Former Billings Wolves quarterback Cory Murphy played the entire first half for Cedar Rapids. Two drives ended in long missed field goal attempts as the offense was undone by three false-start penalties and a bevy of low snaps. The final two drives of the first half both ended in Murphy interceptions, including an ill-advised throw into traffic at the goal line with 52 seconds left in the half and Cedar Rapids trailing, 14-6.
"My second pick, I was getting greedy," Murphy said. "When a play breaks down like that, I had my guy. I've just got to eat that and give a fan a souvenir on that one."
Murphy tossed a pair of touchdown passes, including a 19-yarder to Dennis Rowe that pulled the Titans within 24-12 early in the fourth quarter. Murphy finished 7-of-13 passing for 76 yards, and ran for 11 more.
"I felt good to get that one in," Murphy said.
The Iowa Barnstormers — who are coached this season by 2016 Cedar Rapids offensive coordinator Dixie Wooten — received long first-half touchdown passes from starter Travis Partridge and former Northern Iowa quarterback Brion Carnes and never trailed.
Iowa extended its lead to 24-6 on the first drive of the second half when a Tony Grimes interception for Cedar Rapids was fumbled in the end zone and recovered by Rasheed Williams for a Barnstormers' touchdown.
Rookie quarterback James Harris — who played collegiately at California (Pa.) — played all but one series in the second half for the Titans and was 6 of 11 for 78 yards, two fourth-quarter touchdowns and an interception that was returned for a score.
"It was encouraging because you see these guys making strides early in the game to the end of the game," McNutt said. "That's something you always want to see. We did a good job of improving, but we've got stuff that should be easy plays for us but weren't because of miscues."
Damond Powell — like McNutt, a former Iowa wide receiver — caught five passes for 56 yards, including a 27-yard touchdown. Antoine Johnson returned two kicks for 51 yards.
Cedar Rapids opens the regular season Feb. 17 against the Green Bay Blizzard at the U.S. Cellular Center.