CEDAR RAPIDS — Coming off a bye week and riding a five-game win streak, it would be reasonable to assume all is well in Cedar Rapids Titans camp.
But while it's certainly not doom and gloom, practices aren't exactly a carnival these days for a team whose only loss this season came in the regular season opener, on the road. The mistakes and mental errors that have blemished some of the victories seem to keep rearing their head in games and in practice, said Coach Mark Stoute.
And if the Titans are going to contend for a United Bowl, that can't continue.
“Practice has to be at game speed; that's the only way you can practice,” Stoute said. “You can't practice slow. If you practice slow, you're going to play slow. Decisions have to be made quickly. Adjustments have to be made quickly.
“(Wednesday) was not a good day for adjustments and tempo. Terrible.”
Stoute's frustrations stem from a coach who sees potential in a team full of raw talent.
Quarterback Spencer Ohm has begun to develop timing with receivers Bryan Pray, Carl Sims and Willie Carter, but all involved know improvements can still be made. And though the team is winning and needed the bye week to improve their health, the players understand and share their coach's frustrations.
“It was good to take that week of physically, but mentally, coming out of a bye week, you know you have to get back to it and get refocused,” Ohm said. “Coach Stoute really enunciated it in the post-practice speech that we need to get back on it, get back in our playbooks, get back in film. Because this week hasn't been sharp like we're used to.”
Despite his frustrations about the team not being where he wanted it to be energy-wise in practices out of the bye week, Stoute believes his team isn't far from where they want to be.
Starting tonight at home against the Bemidji Axemen, the Titans have a four-game stretch between now and the next bye week — two at home, two on the road and one against perennial United Bowl contender Sioux Falls — there's still time to get things corrected before the mistakes catch up to them.
“I think we're getting there, and you've got to understand, we've got a lot of guys playing in a whole new scheme,” Stoute said. “The way things work here, we're successful based on the totality of eight guys. Seven guys, no; six guys, really no. So we've got to get eight guys going in the same direction, understanding what's getting ready to happen.
“When teams are playing at a high level, you don't mentally beat yourself. I'm looking to see the complete mental picture come into focus and continue to eliminate mistakes.”
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