SAN JOSE -– The San Jose SaberCats (13-5) finished the regular season with a win over the Iowa Barnstormers (6-12), 72-43, on Saturday night at the Wells Fargo Arena in Des Moines in front of 8,051 fans. Quarterback Nathan Stanley returned to form with a 314-yard and six-touchdown performance, and wide receiver Reggie Gray earned his Big Play nickname with three receiving scores and one kickoff return for a touchdown. SaberCats wide receiver Ben Nelson, playing his first game since May of 2012, picked up six catches for 105 yards in his return.
Hitting the turf first, Barnstormers quarterback Carson Coffman quickly moved the offense down field for a touchdown, finding wide receiver Julian Williams on a nine-yard out route to put the home team up 7-0. After a fumbled handoff attempt by San Jose was recovered by the Barnstormers, Coffman snuck into the end zone from one-yard out to extend the Iowa lead to 14 late in the first quarter.
Opening up the second quarter in the red zone, fullback Odie Armstrong got the SaberCats on the board with a one-yard run to trim the Iowa lead to 14-7. The San Jose defense came up big on Iowa’s next possession, with key pass breakups by defensive backs Simeon Castille and Ken Fontenette, and a fourth down sack from defensive end Joe Sykes gave the ball back to San Jose.
After an impressive 33-yard catch-and-run by offensive lineman Rich Ranglin, quarterback Nathan Stanley got into the end zone from one-yard out to tie the game at 14. On the next offensive play, SaberCats defensive back David Hyland ripped the ball away from Iowa wide receiver Darius Reynolds to give the ball right back to the offense. Making good on the short field, Armstrong would find the end zone for the second time to give San Jose their first lead of the night at 21-14.
The SaberCats defense would continue to disrupt the Barnstormers, forcing their second turnover on downs with one minute remaining in the half. One play later, Stanley looked deep for wide receiver Reggie Gray, and connected on an incredible diving catch from 32-yards to put San Jose up 28-14. After recovering an onside kick attempt, Coffman wasted little time finding Reynolds on the 12-yard fade route to bring Iowa back within seven points. Gray would continue his big second quarter, returning the ensuing kickoff to the Barnstormers ten-yard line followed by a nine-yard touchdown reception to put the SaberCats back up by 14.
Ending the first half, Iowa kicker Ross Gornall knocked through a 43-yard field goal attempt the bring the halftime score to 35-24 in favor of the road team.
The SaberCats offense continued to click to start the third quarter, as Stanley found Gray for their third touchdown connection of the night. Coffman responded for the Barnstormers, finding Reynolds in the back of the end zone for the score. On the ensuing drive, Stanley found wide receiver Dominique Curry from ten-yards out to put the SaberCats back up by 18 at 49-31. Hoping to keep pace, Coffman looked deep on Iowa’s next possession, but Fontenette picked him off at the San Jose ten-yard line.
SaberCats wide receiver Jason Willis, celebrating his 34th birthday, picked up his 12th touchdown of the season to put San Jose up 56-31 early in the fourth. The Barnstormers wouldn’t go away just yet, as Coffman connected with leading receiver Marco Thomas for a score, but SaberCats linebacker Francis Maka would block the extra point to keep the score at 56-37.
However, Stanley continued to execute, throwing his 50th touchdown of the season to Curry, his 25th receiving score, for a 26-point advantage late in the fourth quarter. Hyland would take down Iowa returner Mervin Brookins in the end zone for a safety, and Iowa would tack on a late touchdown by wide receiver DeJay Lester to bring the final score to 72-43 in favor of the SaberCats.
The SaberCats begin the quest for their fourth ArenaBowl Championship next week on Saturday, August 2nd at 7:00 pm PT as the Spokane Shock visit the SAP Center in San Jose in round 1 of the playoffs.
San Jose SaberCats media relations