The Soul didn’t have the ball much in Saturday’s game against the Iowa Barnstormers, but when they did have the ball, they scored.
The Soul needed only 10 plays to score 27 points, topped 34 points in less than 10 minutes of possession and had just two third downs all game — they converted on both — in a dominating 54-30 win Saturday night over the Barnstormers at the Wells Fargo Center. All but one possession resulted in a touchdown.
The Soul had the ball for just 3:33 in the first half but led 27-6 at halftime. They finished the game with just 192 total yards, and Iowa controlled possession for 39:26. For the Soul, staying in an offensive rhythm wasn’t easy.
“It’s hard,” Soul head coach Clint Dolezel said. “The defense is doing a good job of stopping them. We’re getting the ball inside the red zone a lot, so we’re getting one, two plays and scoring.
“That can backfire somewhere down the line, but we did a good job of keeping our composure.”
The Soul have won three straight games and two consecutive at home after starting the season 1-4 on their home turf. What changed? Not much.
“Playing football and not beating ourselves, that’s the biggest thing,” Dolezel said. “There’s one or two plays in every football game that change games around. We were close to a couple of those tonight, but they happened to go our way.”
The Soul committed just one turnover against Iowa.
Soul quarterback Dan Raudabaugh was sharp from the start. On the Soul’s first offensive play, Raudabaugh connected with Tiger Jones on a 23-yard touchdown. Two offensive plays later, Raudabaugh and Jones teamed up for another score.
After one quarter, Raudabaugh had only two pass attempts, both going for seven points. At the end of the day, the 26-year-old was 12 of 15 for 142 yards and four touchdown passes.
For Raudabaugh, having only six pass attempts at half time — of which he completed five — and the ball for under four minutes is just part of the game.
“That’s the way it goes in Arena sometimes,” Raudabaugh said. “Defense was drawing the other team’s drives. When we got it, we took advantage of the situation.”
Jones had four catches for 57 yards and those two scores — his 28th and 29th of the season. Nearly half of Raudabaugh’s 70 touchdown passes have gone Jones’ way this season.
“He’s terrible,” Raudabaugh joked.
But Raudabaugh got serious and explained his working relationship with Jones, and the star receiver — who tried out with the Eagles in 2012 — echoed his quarterback’s comments.
“I think we have great chemistry,” Jones said. “We’ve been together for the past couple years. I believe this is our third year together. We communicate on and off the field and at practice. And that’s the key.”
Soul fullback Derrick Ross followed up last week’s 59-21 win over the Power with a monstrous game against the Barnstormers. The AFL’s all-time leading rusher scored two touchdowns and rushed for 65 yards.
“We’re one of the few teams that actually utilizes the running game,” Raudabaugh said. “Every game, we try to get him involved, because if we get him involved it takes a little off the pass rush, a little more off the receivers, a little off me.”
The Soul’s defense continued to be stout. After giving up the fewest points in franchise history last week (21), the Soul allowed just 30 — their second lowest total this season — forced three first-half turnovers and picked up two sacks.
Linebacker/wide receiver Larry Brackins had two interceptions and seven tackles. Brackins didn’t start the game but replaced defensive back James Romain early when Romain left with an injury.
“Brackins is an old vet,” Dolezel said. “He’s our backup Jack in case something happens with [Joe] Goosby or just like tonight, a DB goes down right away. You [can] put him in five or six different positions, he’s going to excel.”
The Soul added a defensive touchdown in the final minute of the game when Calvin Fance returned a fumble 18 yards for the final score.
Iowa changed quarterbacks after halftime. Starting QB J.J. Raterink threw three interceptions and was sacked once in the first half.
Brian Reader replaced Raterink and led Iowa to 24-second half points. Reader was 13 of 20 for 124 yards and two touchdowns passing. He also added a rushing touchdown.
But the switch at QB didn’t change the Soul’s game plan.
“We talked about it,” Dolezel said. “We said, ‘Same game plan.’ We tried to get after him, push some pressure, had some things not go our way and they made some plays. Overall, I thought we played great defensively.”
The Soul will draw up a new game plan next week when they head to Cleveland to take on the Gladiators.
*Story originally published on NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com.
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