Story by Doulgas Miles/The Gazette
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA — There were plenty of things to like Sunday about the Cedar Rapids Titans. The sum just didn't equate to a first victory.
Cedar Rapids led for most of its Indoor Football League game with the Green Bay Blizzard, but an interception return for a touchdown allowed Green Bay to escape with a 34-28 win over the Titans before 2,874 fans at the U.S. Cellular Center.
"We've got to keep that focus for four quarters," Cedar Rapids Coach Marvin McNutt said. "There's a lot of things that could have happened. We just have to make sure we're sound in all phases."
The Titans played sound and aggressive throughout the first half. McNutt elected an onside kick to begin the game, which ricocheted off the Green Bay front wall and was recovered by Cedar Rapids defensive back Tony Grimes. The gamble resulted in a 29-yard field goal by Michael Georgetti, the first of his three made kicks.
Defensive lineman Chris Martin limited the first-half scoring chances for Green Bay with a blocked field goal and a recovery of his own forced fumble. "We need to take the ball from the other team and put it in our offense's hands," Martin said.
Both plays led to Cedar Rapids touchdowns — a 12-yard toss from quarterback Brion Carnes to Connor Hollenbeck, then a 35-yarder to former Iowa receiver Damond Powell — that gave the Titans an 18-7 lead less than two minutes before halftime.
Carnes and Powell nearly connected again on the final play of the half, but the 39-yard strike was dropped in the end zone with the Titans clinging to an 18-14 lead.
The Titans surrendered the lead at 21-21 after three quarters, but appeared poised for their first victory when Green Bay missed a go-ahead field goal and Carnes drove the team 45 yards, which culminated in a six-yard TD pass to Franklyn Williamson for a 28-21 lead with 5:20 left in the game.
Green Bay dodged defeat by converting a 4th-and-7 from its six-yard-line, then tied the game when quarterback Matt Behrendt delivered his second 33-yard TD pass to receiver Marquel Willis.
Behrendt passed for 208 yards and three touchdowns for Green Bay (2-2).
As the Cedar Rapids offense attempted a game-winning drive in the final minute, Green Bay defensive back Manny Asprilla intercepted Carnes at the left wall and zig-zagged 38 yards to the end zone for a 34-28 Blizzard lead with 50 seconds left.
"I was late on the ball, that was my fault," said Carnes, who finished with 144 yards passing and three scores. "I've got to see it a little bit quicker."
Carnes' final throw was a fourth-down heave into the end zone in which Green Bay defensive back Tyrell Pearson outfought Cedar Rapids receiver Tre Parmalee for an interception that sealed the Blizzard victory.
Powell caught six passes for 87 yards for Cedar Rapids (0-4), which visits Iowa at Wells Fargo Arena next Sunday.
"In order for us to continue to get better, we have to continue to make strides like we have," McNutt said. "If we continue to make strides like we did this past week, we should be good for the next game."