Rattlers fail to stop Iowa, edged in overtime in front of record crowd
PHOENIX — The Arizona Rattlers went blow for blow with the Iowa Barnstormers but ultimately fell on the game’s final play in overtime, 69-68, in front of a record crowd of 18,381 fans at Talking Stick Resort Arena Sunday evening.
The game started with Arizona (9-2) marching 30 yards in four plays before running back Dylan Peebles found the end zone from a couple yards out to give the Rattlers the early lead.
On the ensuing drive, Iowa quarterback Drew Powell found receiver Ryan Balentine for a four-yard touchdown to even the score.
The teams continued to trade scores until just before halftime. With just 7 seconds left in the half, Arizona signal-caller Jeff Ziemba rolled to his right and hit receiver Anthony Amos just inside the goal line from six yards out to give the Rattlers a 35-28 lead at the break.
The Barnstormers (8-2) started the third quarter with the ball and, on the fifth play of the drive, Powell hit wideout Brady Roland for a 17-yard touchdown strike to cut the Arizona lead to one following a missed extra point.
The Rattlers answered right back as Ziemba completed a 24-yard touchdown pass to Arizona State alum Jamal Miles to extend the Arizona lead to eight.
The teams continued their see-saw battle with neither managing a stop until the final minute of the fourth quarter.
With 22 seconds left and the Rattlers trailing by three, Arizona kick returner Dezmon Epps returned the ball to the Iowa 10-yard line, putting Arizona in position to win. However, the offense couldn’t deliver the knockout blow, settling for a Sawyer Petre field goal as regulation expired to send the game to overtime.
At the start of the extra frame, Ziemba found Amos for another clutch score on 4th-and-goal to give Arizona the lead with Iowa needing to match to continue the game.
Powell answered once again, plunging into the end zone from a few yards out to bring his team within an extra point of tying once again.
But head coach Kevin Guy made a mistake, throwing out the red challenge flag when his team had no timeouts remaining. This led to a delay of game penalty, moving the ball half the distance to the goal.
Iowa head coach Dixie Wooten chose to go for the win. Powell faked another draw, sucking in the defense, and throwing to the back corner of the end zone for a wide open Roland, giving the Barnstormers their third win in as many tries since both teams joined the IFL.
“Our sideline was yelling, ‘Challenge, challenge, challenge,’ ” Guy said of the late game gaffe. “It was heat of the moment. They were lining up to run a play. I threw the challenge flag. It shouldn’t have been thrown. It was a mistake. We’ll address that as a staff. We have to understand the rules. We can’t be yelling things at the heat of the moment and not know the rules. I personally felt like I let the team down in that moment.”
Guy, who is also the team’s general manager, went on to address the disparity between both sides of the ball and put a challenge to his defense.
“That’s two straight home games that we got into shootouts and our defense did absolutely nothing. I’m going to look in the mirror, start with myself, see what changes we need to make as a team. Then, we’ll address it with the players. We can’t put that pressure on the offense to have to score every time. We did not make a play. We are just flat out soft. Soft, soft, soft. OK, here I’m going to say it one more time: soft.”
-The game was truly a quarterback duel with Ziemba finishing 22 of 27 passing for 237 yards and five touchdowns. He also rushed for 35 yards and two scores. But Arizona had no answer for Powell, who was nearly flawless with 19-of-21 passing for 191 yards and five scores. On the ground was where he shined, rushing for 94 yards and four touchdowns.
– Guy remains tied with Danny White for most wins in franchise history at 141. Before the game, the team raised a banner to honor the organization’s 300th win, which occurred last week.
– The new attendance record for a Rattlers game broke a 20-year old mark set when 17,436 fans saw Arizona capture its second Arena Bowl title in 1997. Their opponent in that contest: the Iowa Barnstormers, quarterbacked by Kurt Warner.
– The loss snaps Arizona’s 11-game home winning streak dating back to April 22 of last season.
The Arizona Rattlers host the Nebraska Danger on Sunday in the team’s regular season home finale at Talking Stick Resort Arena. Kick-off is at 3:05pm.