CEDAR RAPIDS – Through two exhibitions and the regular season opener, Cedar Rapids Titans Coach Mark Stoute wasn’t happy with his offense.
Quarterback Spencer Ohm and company had sputtered out of the gate, and Stoute called them a work in progress.
Last night at the U.S. Cellular Center, things took a step forward for the offense, especially on the ground, as the Titans won their regular season home opener, 35-13, over the Green Bay Blizzard.
“I decided before coming into the game we were definitely going back to our running game. It takes a lot of pressure off the quarterbacks,” Stoute said. “It was definitely steps forward, but we need to take bigger steps.”
Ohm finished just 7 of 16 for 46 yards, but didn’t have to throw for much of the night. Between Ohm and running back LaRon Council, the Titans ran for 222 yards and scored three times on the ground, including a 49-yard option keeper from Ohm. Council finished with a game-high 140 yards on 19 carries, with one touchdown.
Council, who is back from a torn Achilles tendon last season, gave the running game a “90 percent grade” and was happy to be able to have a big night when it was needed.
“We took some big steps tonight (and) I felt like our offensive line was a lot more physical this week than it was last week,” Council said. “We had a few mental mistakes down the stretch, but the physicality was big down the stretch.
“It’s just focus (needed to correct those mistakes). From the time start practice Tuesday or Wednesday, we’ve just got to focus the whole time.”
The running game may have led the offense, but the hallmark for the Titans continues to be their defense.
The Cedar Rapids defense was stingy for most of the night, forcing a turnover – defensive back Robert Brown had an interception – or a three and out on nearly every possession. The Titans held Green Bay to just 158 yards of total offense and forced five total turnovers.
The special teams unit had a solid night as well. Brown added a kickoff return for a touchdown to his interception, and the Titans converted an onside kick.
“They were lights out tonight, just great plays all around the board,” Stoute said. “The defense has bought in, and they’re all-in, 100 percent. If I get my offense to focus like them, we’ll be a phenomenal team.”
For as much good as Stoute saw on both sides of the ball, he certainly still wasn’t ready to call his team a finished product.
He said he’s encouraged by what he saw, and hopes the improvement process continues as the Titans move forward and the season hits full stride.
“It’s still not quite there, still too many mental errors,” Stoute said. “We cannot keep shooting ourselves in the foot over and over again.
“We got the win, but now we’ve got to go back and concentrate on, like I told them at halftime, there’s got to be a commitment to excellence.”
The Titans, which sold out the U.S. Cellular Center with 5,514 in attendance, have back-to-back games against the Blizzard, and will head to Green Bay on March 16 for their next game. Kickoff is set for 3 p.m.