Blizzard Ground Barnstormers
Wisconsin and Iowa, the two states respect each other, but when it comes to football both want to pound the other into submission.
“It looked like an outdoor game today,” said Blizzard head coach Bob Landsee.
This game wasn’t your typical high scoring and fast paced arena game that most fans are used to seeing, but it was a good start in the Blizzard-Barnstormers rivalry.
The first drive for the Barnstormers (2-3) would foreshadow how their night was going to be.
Quarterback Joe Brannen was sacked by Blizzard defensive end Joe Sykes on second down to back the Barnstormers inside their own two-yard line. After failing to gain any yards on third down Iowa tried a 64-yard field goal, but kicker Jeff Glas hit the scoreboard instead of the nets, and that was the most action the scoreboard saw the entire first quarter.
Both teams struggled to move the ball the rest of the quarter and combined for five missed field goal attempts.
The first signs of offense for either team came at the start of the second quarter when Blizzard fullback Tyree Young caught a screen pass and was able to break a few tackles as he made his way inside the Iowa ten yard line, but he fumbled the ball and Iowa recovered.
The Barnstormers again couldn’t move the football and attempted a 55-yard field goal. Glas hit a low-lining kick, which appeared to be intended as a defensive kick to give the Blizzard bad field position on the next drive, but it sailed to the bottom of the crossbar and hit it and went over as it popped up and in to give Iowa a 3-0 lead.
Iowa wouldn’t score again until there was 49 seconds left in the third quarter.
The Blizzard (4-2) would get on the scoreboard on its next possession when Young scored on a 16-yard run and the Blizzard wouldn’t look back after that point.
This was Young’s first game with the team this year. He played last year with the Blizzard, but didn’t return to the team until this week.
Blizzard head coach Bob Landsee said earlier in the week at practice that Young solidifies the fullback position for the team, and will give it an added boost.
He was correct because Young rejuvenated the Green Bay running attack as he had 10 carries for 70 yards and two touchdowns. Fullback/Mac linebacker Gus Tyson also had two carries for 12 yards and two touchdowns.
Landsee has prided himself on being able to run the football in goal line situations, and this year it didn’t seem he had the confidence in fullback Jeremy Sheffey, who was placed on injured reserve this week after injuring his knee against the Quad City Steamwheelers, to do so.
The Blizzard offense needed to run the football in this game because quarterback Ryan Porter over threw a lot of passes to open receivers.
Porter did show he has nice touch on his deep ball and it allowed wide receivers Antoine Burns and Quorey Payne to make a few plays on Iowa defenders.
Burns was activated this week because the Blizzard’s top two receivers, Steve Gonzalez and Scott Burnoski, were sidelined again with injuries.
Porter was 12 of 27 passing for 213 yards and two touchdowns, but also had two interceptions.
He replaced Shane Adler as the starter last week, and Adler was traded this week to the Mahoning Valley Thunder. Collin Drafts, who was acquired in a trade from the Arkansas Twisters, was activated this week and will likely get a chance if he proves himself in practice.
“We need to start looking ourselves in the mirror and figure out who’s going to play and who’s not going to play,” Landsee said. “I think there is just too much procrastinating and assignments being messed up.”
Green Bay’s defense, which came into the game ranked number one overall in arenafootball2, again bailed out the offense.
It held the Iowa offense to 192 yards and combined for six sacks.
“You haven’t seen the best yet,” defensive end Joe Sykes said.
Sykes had two sacks, which gives him 7.5 on the season, and Tyler Birkley also had two. Birkley was filling in at defensive end for the injured Kory Lothe.
For the Barnstormers, it was surprising that head coach John Gregory didn’t use Tim Dodge and Jack Walker Jr. on offense.
Both players have been on the af2 Ironman team in the past and made their names in the arena game with the Steamwheelers. The only pass that either caught was by Walker, but that was an interception from Porter.
The game may have been ugly to watch, and seemed to resemble a Big Ten match up between the Iowa Hawkeyes and the Wisconsin Badgers, the Badger marching band was even at the game, instead of an arena football game, but for the Blizzard it’s another win in the tough Midwest division.
Coach Landsee collected his 25th win as a head coach in the af2, and Young’s 70 yards rushing set a new single-game record for the Blizzard.
The Blizzard remains at the top of the Midwest division with the victory, but if it wants to stay there it will have to find the quarterback that can keep them there.
“Special teams did a better job tonight, defense did the job, offense, were stale,” Landsee said. “We need to just complete that full-house of getting that third part of the game.”
The Blizzard renews its rivalry with the Peoria Pirates on Saturday, May 10th at the Carver Arena. The two squads haven’t played each other since 2004.